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92 vamm ewi 

town, Peter Frederick, 1889- 

the herait of Cat Island; the 
lif f Pra Jercme Hawee. P.J 
C1957] 
lllua. 



il . 

iflffllr 




A SPACIOUS, intriguing biography of one 
of the most unorthodox figures of the 
twentieth century, this is the story of John 
C. Hawes, romantic idealist, architect, 
sportsman and priest, who became a her 
mit on a remote Bahamian island. 




92 H391an 

Anson, Peter Frederick, 

1889- 

The hermit of cat 
island; the life of Fra 
[1957] 



The Hermit of Cat Island 



The 
Hermit 

Of The 

Cat 

T 1 rl 

ISlcinCl p ra Jerome Hawes 



BY PETER F. ANSON 



P. J. KENEDY & SONS 
New York 



Copyright 1957 by P. J. Kenedy & Sons, New York 
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 57-10096 

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



TO 
CHARLES S. SELBY-HALL 

cZose friend of the Hermit of Cat Island 
for more than a century 



Other books by Peter F. Anson 



The Pilgrim s Guide to Franciscan Italy (1927) 

Fishing Boats and Fisher Folk on the East Coast of Scotland 

(1930) 

Fishermen and Fishing Ways (1931) 
Mariners of Brittany (1931) 
The Quest of Solitude (1932) 
Six Pilgrim s Sketch Books (1934) 
A Pilgrim Artist in Palestine (1934) 
The Catholic Church in Modern Scotland (1937) 
The Caravan Pilgrim (1938) 
The Scottish Fisheries: Are They Doomed? (1939) 
The Benedictines of Caldey (1940) 
How to Draw Ships (1941) 
British Sea Fishermen (1944) 
Harbour Head: Maritime Memories (1945) 
A Roving Recluse: More Memories (1946) 
The Apostleship of the Sea in England and Wales (1946) 
The Sea Apostolate in Ireland (1946) 
Churches: Their Plan and Furnishing (1948) 
The Story of Pluscarden Priory (1948) 
The Church and the Sailor (1949) 
The Religious Orders and Congregations of Great Britain and 

Ireland (1950) 
Scots Fisher Folk (1951) 
Christ and the Sailor (1954) 
The Call of the Cloister (1955) 
Carmelite Hermits and Hermitages (1957) 
Tliese Made Peace [with Cecily Hallack] (1957) 



Foreword 

MY FRIENDSHIP with the Hermit of Cat Island Monsignor 
John C. Hawes began in 1939 when he first wrote me to 
congratulate me on the publication of The Benedictines of 
Caldey which, he explained, had aroused many long-buried 
memories. I had been familiar with the career of Fra Jerome, 
as he now called himself, since I had first heard of him in 
1911 as an Anglican Franciscan. I was aware of his successful 
architectural ventures, his conversion to Catholicism and sub 
sequent work as a missionary in Australia. Now I learned 
that only a few weeks before his letter arrived he had be 
come a Franciscan tertiary hermit in the Bahamas. From this 
time we corresponded regularly and frequently, Father 
Jerome enlivening his vivid and detailed impressions of 
people and places with amusing sketches or rough drawings 
of the churches he was designing. 

When in 1945 he asked me to write his biography, explain 
ing that his bishop in Australia had put him under obedience 
to tell the story of how, by a long series of strange events, he 
had received what he believed to be a clear call to end his 
days as a hermit in the Bahamas, I replied that I would be 
delighted to prepare his story for publication. 

Three months later two large parcels, containing diaries, 
notebooks, chapters of an unfinished autobiography and 
much miscellaneous material, arrived, followed by a third 
parcel of drawings and photographs of his architectural work 
at all stages of his career. Finally came a bundle of letters 
which he had written to Mr. Charles S. Selby-Hall, some of 
them dating back to the days when they were both Church of 
England clergymen. 

vii 



Foreword 

I immediately set to work fitting together the bits and 
pieces of his extraordinary career, and by the time the biog 
raphy had been brought up to 1948 I felt that I knew inti 
mately the Hermit of Cat Island, even though we had never 
met face to face. But then Father Jerome wrote me that the 
book must not be published before his death, so reluctantly 
I put aside the manuscript. It was not until eight years later, 
after receiving word from Bishop Leonard Hagarty, O.S.B., 
Vkar Apostolic of the Bahamas, of the death of Father 
Jerome at Miami Beach, Florida, on June 26, 1956, that I 
was able again to take up this work. Now, twelve years later, 
it has been revised and put into its final shape. 

In the midst of a material civilization visibly crumbling 
away before us, the story of a man such as Father Jerome 
going apart into solitude bears a silent witness to the reality 
of the unseen, to the lordship of mind over matter, to the 
supremacy in man of the spirit. And, quite apart from the 
fascinating content of his life story, it has a real historical 
and spiritual importance. 

Father Jerome was one of the very few Catholics in mod 
ern times who embraced the hermit s vocation. Like Charles 
de Foucauld, his French counterpart, he was inspired by the 
solitary ideal. And, like him, he was unable completely to 
achieve his object because circumstances presented active 
work for souls which could not be refused. 

Just because of his God-given temperament, it would have 
been almost impossible for John Cyril Hawes to have be 
come one of those solitaries who, valuing solitude as their 
most cherished possession, take good care that it is not dis 
covered. Their one object is to efface themselves so that they 
are not recognized for what they are. They realize that the 
surest way to hide themselves is to live in the midst of the 
crowd where they are unknown, unthought of and unre 
marked. They are always trying to make themselves incon- 



Foreword ix 

spicuous to put people off the scent so that their lives can 
be completely hidden with God. 

Had Charles de Foucauld remained in his log hut in the 
garden of the Poor Glare Convent at Nazareth, where he 
worked as a servant, he might have been forgotten until after 
his death. But Abb Huvelin, his spiritual director, felt that 
that was not De Foucauld s true vocation and so, having been 
ordained priest, he ended up as a hermit-missionary in the 
Sahara from where his fame spread throughout the world. 
The case of John Cyril Hawes is almost similar. Like De 
Foucauld, he really wanted to become an absolute solitary, 
but the ecclesiastical authorities were sure that his talents 
must not be wasted. As a result, the last years of his life were 
almost as active as those spent as a missionary in Australia. 

But if Father Jerome did not entirely succeed in achieving 
complete solitude on his isolated island, if his eremitical life 
was constantly interrupted by demands on his architectural 
talents, by necessary ministrations to the native Bahamians, 
and by a steady stream of visitors, nevertheless the means 
which he chose to hide himself were in keeping with his 
basically artistic nature. A shrewder or more worldly-minded 
man might have guessed that to build a hermitage on the 
highest hill in an archipelago frequented by tourists would 
inevitably lead to his solitude being invaded. But who can 
deny that his vocation may have been to remind the modern 
world of the value of the solitary life that the Hermit of Cat 
Island was meant to serve as a living sermon, stressing some 
thing so many of us have forgotten? For a Christian hermit is 
not running away from something; he is running after some 
thing. And that something is God. 

PETER F. ANSON 



Contents 

Foreword vii 

1. The Young Seeker (1876-1901) 3 

2. The Poor Man s Follower (1901-1908) 18 

3. "Roman Fever" (1908-1911) 39 

4. From the Rockies to the Beda (1911-1915) 54 

5. Gold-Fields Missionary (1915-1920) 68 

6. Bush Architect (1920-1937) 87 

7. The Bahamas Beckon (1937-1939) 102 

8. Cat Island (1939-1940) 117 

9. Island Priest (1940-1943) 146 

10. Soliloquies of a Solitary (1943) 175 

11. "In Journeyings Often ..." (1944-1948) 187 

12. The Artist at Work 213 

13. Toward Evening 248 

14. The Last Journey (1954-1956) 267 
Last Will and Testament 274 
The Litany of the Hermits 275 
Appendix: Buildings Designed by John C. Hawes 276 



The Hermit of Cat Island 



1. 



The Young Seeker [1876-igoi] 



"WELL! That s the funniest little baby I ve ever seen just 
like an old bishop." 

This comment by the grandmother of John Cyril Hawes is 
all that he himself tells us of the circumstances of his birth on 
September 7, 1876, except for the fact of his baptism a few 
weeks later at St. John s Church. 

John was the third son of a London attorney who lived in 
Richmond, Surrey, now a part of London, but then still a 
small town in the country. It was filled with stately Georgian 
and Queen Anne mansions, their private gardens and grounds 
enclosed by long stretches of high red-brick walls. Pair-horse 
carriages driven by gold-laced coachmen and attended by 
flunkies rolled along the quiet tree-shaded roads while be 
yond the town lay fields and market gardens. 

The Hawes lived in a house in Paradise Road, where, in 
the Victorian tradition, the family formed a close-knit unit. 
As soon as John was old enough his two older brothers, Ted 
and Robert, accepted him as an equal and drew him into 
their games. The three boys sallied forth to sail their boats 
on a pond in Richmond Park, or maneuvered their indoor 
fleet across a table at home, naming their six-inch-long battle 
ships after vessels in the Royal Navy. Once a year they were 

3 



4 The Hermit of Cat Island 

taken to a Christmas pantomime at the Drury Lane Theatre, 
and Mis. Hawes annually entertained her sons friends at a 
Christmas children *s party with games, supper and dancing. 
John hated the dancing, for it made him giddy, but he sub 
mitted to it for the sake of being allowed to go to similar 
gatherings at the homes of other boys and girls. 

In the summer holidays the family went boating on the 
Thames, and every August established themselves in a quiet 
resort on the coast of Sussex, such as Bognor or Littlehamp- 
ton. Then there were musical evenings at home with Mrs. 
Hawes accompanying on the piano while Ted played the 
violin and Bob the flageolet or the cornet. 

Like most middle-class English families of the period, the 
Hawes were devout Christians. Mr. Hawes, who belonged to 
the evangelical section of the Church of England, held strong 
"Protestant" views so uncompromising that he resigned his 
office of churchwarden after a pair of candlesticks had been 
placed on the communion table of St. John s. No excuse ever 
served, recalled John, to prevent his father from taking his 
children to church on Sunday morning. And on weekdays he 
read family prayers morning and evening while the house 
hold knelt at chairs turned to the walls around the dining 
room a custom prevalent in most Victorian families. 

Mrs. Hawes had her special devotions at midday, and dur 
ing their holidays her sons joined her. Each of them read in 
turn from the Book of Common Prayer the verses of the 
psalms for the particular day of the month. Then their 
mother read the two appointed lessons from the Old and 
New Testament, followed by the Te Deum and the Collect 
for the preceding Sunday. John never found these devotions 
tiresome because his mother varied them with explanations 
and commentaries. 

John s "Franciscanism" developed early, so he jokingly 
wrote, when he became attached to his cousin s sturdy bull 



The Young Seeker 5 

terrier, Phiz, an affectionate dog who expressed his fondness 
for the small boy by licking his face all over and joining in 
the games. And it was on his fifth birthday, when a large box 
of toy bricks was given to him, that he found his vocation. 
"There were blocks and beams of various lengths, curved 




"My Fifth Birthday" 

arch pieces, round pillars and triangular spandrils; making it 
possible to build houses, bridges, harbors, forts or towers. 
Henceforth I was an architect, engineer and builder." He 
adds that he now became interested in drawing as well, and 
constantly bothered his father for paper and pencils. 

At the age of six John s formal education began. He was 
sent to a small private day school, and three years later to a 
preparatory boarding school in Sussex Square, Brighton. 
There his clearest memory was of Sunday mornings when the 
eighteen little boys at the school settled themselves in the 
pews at St. George s Proprietary Chapel, where the minister 
preached in a black Geneva gown, and the service was ter 
ribly dreary. This no doubt served to set his inclinations in 
the direction of High Church rites, an enthusiasm that de 
veloped further when, at thirteen, he entered King s School, 
Canterbury. 



6 The Hermit of Cat Island 

There, he wrote, "I came under the influence of the past 
the great medieval cathedral welcomed and sheltered me 
under its wings. I drank the cup of tradition. The very stones 
of the glorious old temple of God cried out in testimony of 
its Catholic past." Stirred as he was by Canterbury, young 
Hawes reveled in history, particularly in its architectural 
manifestations, and further solidified his professional lean 
ings by capturing the first prize for drawing. 

At King s School John did not confine himself altogether 
to his studies, but threw himself happily into sports, an im 
portant part of English public-school life. His choice was foot 
ball and he soon found himself playing halfback in the third 
"Rugger" fifteen. "We played in wet and mud even when 
it was snowing but woe betide anybody who was discovered 
wearing a singlet or shirt under his football jersey. Every 
thing would be torn to shreds off his back for being a molly 
coddle/ I am thankful I was brought up in that school of 
hardness, but I was a very quiet and unaggressive boy." 

One of John s favorite preoccupations was to wander 
around Canterbury Cathedral, and soon he became familiar 
with every nook and cranny of the great structure. He rein 
forced his firsthand knowledge with many hours spent in the 
library poring over related books, and here he discovered the 
Rule of St. Benedict. This so impressed him that he says, 
"Expressive of my admiration, I got a block of wood and 
carved with my penknife a small eight-inch statue of the 
Patriarch of western monasticism my first idolatrous graven 
image!" 

It was at about this time that John made friends with a 
group of boys who were High Church, among whom was 
H. J. Fynes-Qinton, later to become one of the leaders of 
the Papalist party in. the Church of England. With them, for 
the fast time/ he attended the sung Eucharist at the ancient 
church of St. Peter. 



The Young Seeker 7 

The excitement of these new experiences was somewhat 
dampened by his instruction for the Anglican rite of Con 
firmation. "... Concerning the sacrament of the Holy Com 
munion the nearest we got to an explanation of the Real 
Presence was the quotation of an ambiguous verse (attrib 
uted to Queen Elizabeth) : Christ was the Word and spake 
it; that I believe and take it/ I longed for something more 
Catholic, but had not the courage to ask: Please sir, what 
does the Church believe and teach that the Word makes it? " 
The Bishop of Dover who confirmed the boys reminded them 
that "the Church of England accepts only two sacraments and 
that the other five . . . are nothing more than a corrupt fol 
lowing of the Apostles." 

In spite of such evangelical warnings, John found himself 
more and more attracted by High Church services and began 
to dream of becoming an Anglo-Catholic clergyman, but 
when his father proposed that he take up architecture as a 
profession, he lacked the courage to confess his preference. 
John therefore found himself at sixteen articled to the firm 
of Edmerton and Gabriel, whose offices were situated in the 
very heart of London. He might have enjoyed the work ex 
cept that it chiefly consisted of plans for banks and schools, 
whereas John s heart was in church design. 

For five years he endured this drudgery, at the same time 
attending evening classes at the Royal Institute of British 
Architects and the Architectural Association schools. He also 
enrolled in handicrafts classes at the London Polytechnic and 
the London County Council Arts and Crafts School where 
he learned how to carve in stone and wood and acquired a 
practical knowledge of the use of building materials and the 
intricacies of plumbing. 

John s very thorough grounding in architectural theory 
and practice was established by some of the best teachers of 
the time. Among them were William R. Lethaby, a former 



8 The Hermit of Cat Island 

disciple of John Ruskin and a founder of the Art Workers 
Guild and the Arts and Grafts Society, who was principal 
of the London County Council school; and E. S. Prior, well 
known for his writings on medieval architecture. John was 
further influenced by the work of John D. Sedding, an archi 
tect who by contemporary standards was almost revolution 
ary. He was particularly inspired by Sedding s design of Holy 
Trinity Church, Sloane Street, which blended Renaissance 
details with Gothic, and this architectural style had a life 
long influence on the young man whose taste was always 
eclectic. 

But it was not only ecclesiastical architecture that fasci 
nated John Hawes at this time; he became just as interested 
in the externals of worship. He recalled that "the then count 
less City churches were always open during London s busy 
midday luncheon hour. Through the zeal and energy of the 
High Church party, the Lenten season was made a real mis 
sion time, with daily services in many churches during the 
luncheon interval, Office clerks . . . gulped down a few sand 
wiches in order to get in early to services, and the little 
medieval Gothic Church of St. Ethelburga, Bishopgate, was 
the favorite place of pilgrimage for Anglo-Catholics. Here in 
Lent there was a daily midday Mass, and on saints 1 days a 
solemn Te Deum was sung after it, with the celebrant in a 
cope, and "enough incense to choke you!" John became more 
and more familiar with the Anglo-Catholic world of the 
eighteen nineties, although he does not seem to have pene 
trated into its underworld. He remained on the threshold, 
as it were, perhaps because he was too shy to indulge in any 
reckless adventures. 

But he was bold enough to wander into several "Roman" 
churches, including the imposing Renaissance church of the 

Oratorian Fathers. Here to quote his own words "Light 

suddenly came to me that the Catholic and Roman Church 



The Young Seeker 9 

must be the True Church. I knew I ought to become a Cath 
olic. But what a blow this step would be to my dear parents 
what a terrible separation. I trembled. Then I reflected in 
my ignorance that, if I became a Catholic, I would have to 
believe that my father and mother would be damned im 
possible! To strengthen my resistance to God s grace, I fell 
back on the quibbling and sophisticated arguments of The 
Church Times" 

It is difficult for the average person to understand the 
evolutionary process which takes place before an ordinary 
Anglican becomes a full-fledged Anglo-Catholic. Subcon 
sciously the individual, especially in the case of a youth, feels 
the thrill of doing something wrong. In the case of John 
Hawes, who was essentially of an emotional temperament, 
his attraction to Catholicism was romantic rather than intel 
lectual. It is permissible to wonder whether this "light" that 
he saw in the London Oratory was anything more than the 
quite-understandable glamor of the gorgeous baroque archi 
tecture, combined with the elusive smell of incense. 

Shortly after this he summoned up his courage to make his 
first confession in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Mun- 
ster Square, at that date one of the most popular Anglo- 
Catholic strongholds in London. For a few months he re 
mained fervent. Then he became careless, and, apparently 
not yet considering that it was a mortal sin for him to miss 
Mass on Sundays, often went off cycling, never entering a 
church at all. His religious emotionalism is shown by the fact 
that after a few of these brief spells of paganism he grew pious 
again; so pious, that he wanted to abandon the architectural 
profession and become a clergyman. He saw himself as a young 
priest vested in cassock, lace-trimmed cotta and biretta, or as 
the celebrant at High Mass wearing a splendid embroidered 
chasuble. Then he thought of becoming a missionary, and 
developed a special interest in the Universities Mission to 



10 The Hermit of Cat Island 

Central Africa, whose services were reputed to be more "Cath 
olic" than almost any of those in England. But how could he 
leave his home and relations, not to mention aU the ecclesias 
tical attractions of England its beautiful churches and ca 
thedrals, and the increasing fascination of the ritualistic 
movement in the Anglican Church? 

An Easter vacation tour in Normandy with one of his 
brothers, then an undergraduate at Trinity College, Oxford, 
helped to make John even more enthusiastic about the exter 
nals of the Catholic religion. Among the towns they visited 
was Caen, where, so he tells us, he "felt raised to Heaven. It 
was all so different from England. I went into several churches, 
richly dim and mysterious, with twinkling lights of candles 
glimmering here and there where priests were offering the 
Holy Sacrifice in little side chapels no glare of daylight, no 
stiff rows of long pews, but prie-dieus and chairs, higgledy- 
piggledy anyhow. Worshipers knelt at prayer in reverent si 
lence, nor was there any loud mouthing at them by the min 
ister, of long prayers. Only the quiet blessed mutter of the 
Mass. 1 The very atmosphere moved to worship, to bring one 
to one s knees. And all the churches were the same. You did 
not have to worry about exercising care to choose one that 
was Low or High/ " 

Two years later John and his brother made a longer tour 
in France on a tandem bicycle. Starting at Le Havre, they 
visited Jumiges, Caudebec, Rouen, Chartres, Bourges, and 
so on into the mountainous country of Auvergne, reaching 
Le Puy, which John described as "the most marvelous and 
fairy-like of old cities." The tour ended with Paris, Beauvais 
ajad Amiens. The effect on him of the glories of French ec 
clesiastical architecture seems to have been overwhelming; 
not so much because of the buildings themselves, but because 
of their Catholic atmosphere. 

On September 7, 1897, John kept his twenty-first birthday, 



The Young Seeker 11 

and became his own master. Immediately he started to work 
on his own at Bognor in Sussex. He designed several houses 
and cottages, as well as a curious-looking building named 
"The White Tower/ which was commented on favorably 
and illustrated by a drawing in The British Architect. It 
seems that his enthusiasm for Anglo-Catholicism suffered a 
partial eclipse, and for the whole of one summer all his spare 
time, including Sundays, was spent in sailing his first boat, 
in which he sometimes ventured as far as the Isle of Wight 

In February 1898 he started work on a model intended 
for the Royal Academy Exhibition. It took the form of an 
imaginary church set among the mountainous Cumberland 
Fells. He tells us that every little detail, inside and out, was 
made to scale with meticulous care, including the pulpit, 
rails, and altar, with its six candlesticks, backed by a painted 
triptych of the Crucifixion. The model was accepted and 
to quote his own words "it brought me recognition, public 
ity and praise, also my first commission to build a church, 
at Gunnerton in Northumberland." 

It was shortly after this that he experienced what he always 
regarded as a genuine religious conversion. It followed a 
brief but harmless flirtation with a beautiful girl of about 
his own age, during which he records he "walked on air, in 
toxicated with dreams and visions." 

One evening he happened to be in London, about to take 
the train back to Bognor. He was walking down Regent 
Street, and turned into the Church of St. Thomas, where a 
festival service of some sort was going on. His own words re 
veal his emotional reaction clearly. 

"I recollect standing at the back of the crowded church, 
and the stirring roll of the Gregorian chants as the whole 
congregation joined in the psalms of Evensong to the thunder 
of the organ. Then came the Magnificat, with copes and much 
incense* And now a white-haired clergyman with a strong 



12 The Hermit of Cat Island 

square face entered the pulpit Canon Rhodes-Bristow of 
Lewisham -never shall I forget his name! God bless him! 
In earnest, convincing tones he spoke of Vocation of the 
world and its allurements and of the purpose of Life. The 
Loxd said to Abraham, get thee forth out of thy country, and 
from thy kindred and out of thy father s house and go into the 
land that I shall show thee. And how Elijah the Prophet 
called Elisha when he was in the midst of plowing and Elisha 
left his plow and oxen in the field and followed Elijah. And 
how St. Francis Xavier heard and pondered the words: What 
shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his 
own soul? 

"I had that night seen the veil lifted back. I had seen The 
Vision. I went home in deep thought. Something terrible 
had crossed my path. It is hard for thee to kick against the 
pricks/ and to whom it applies it is absolute it must be re 
sponded to without any conditions. ... If thou wilt be per 
fect, go sell all that thou hast and give to the poor and 
come, follow Me/ I couldn t! I couldn t! I was troubled. It 
became impossible for me to apply myself to my work the 
work that I loved so much. 

"And then suddenly Our Lord touched me with His grace 
He called me literally from the instruments of my work. 
I remember I rose up from my stool before the drawing board 
with the T square in my hand, and I laid it down in happy 
surrender. Unspeakable joy flooded my soul. Lord, I will 
follow Thee, whithersoever Thou goest. The flood of that 
joy carried me on so that I thought sacrifice is no sacrifice at 
all because it is such a joy to offer it. Ignorant of the spiritual 
life, I did not understand that we cannot build everlasting 
tabernacles on the holy mountain that the joy of Tabor is 
only to fortify us against the going up to Jerusalem. I did not 
realize what dark days were to follow, and that when the 
Master says, Follow Me/ it will be through the Garden of 
Gethsemane." 



The Young Seeker 13 

John wasted no time. The following morning he took the 
train from Bognor to London, went straight to the office of 
the Universities Mission to Central Africa, and demanded 
an immediate interview with the secretary. It was a bitter 
blow to be told that what the Mission wanted most was lay 
workers, but he accepted this as the will of God, even if he 
now longed to become an Anglo-Catholic priest. The sec 
retary said he would arrange for an examination by the med 
ical board as soon as possible, and inform John of the date 
fixed. 

His parents, naturally, were horrified when he told them 
that he was making plans to go to Central Africa. They could 
not understand his sudden religious conversion, and pointed 
out that it was ridiculous for him to throw over the career 
for which he had been trained without serious reflection on 
the consequences. To their intense relief the doctors refused 
to pass their son, saying that his heart would not stand up to 
the tropical climate. From the parents 7 point of view a major 
crisis had been averted, but to John it was a bitter disappoint 
ment. All he could do was to wait and pray for further guid 
ance. 

Three years before John s religious conversion the intel 
lectual world had been taken by storm by the publication 
of Paul Sabatier s Vie de S. Francois d Assise which almost 
simultaneously was placed on the Index and crowned by the 
French Academy. This remarkable biography was soon trans 
lated into most European languages, including English. As 
Dr. John R. H. Moorman remarks: "Immediately the print 
ing presses of Europe began to hum with Franciscan literature 
of all kinds and of widely different value. Works appeared 
with bewildering rapidity." * This book, written by a French 
Protestant theologian, certainly gave the greatest impulse 
to the modern study of Franciscan history as has been ad- 

ijohn R. H. Moorman, The Sources for the Life of St. Francis of Assist 
(Manchester, 1930), p. 9. 



14 The Hermit of Cat Island 

mitted by the late Archbishop Paschal Robinson, O.F.M. 

In England this sudden "rediscovery" of St. Francis was 
dosely associated with the Christian Socialist movement, one 
of whose leaders was an Anglo-Catholic clergyman, the Rev 
erend James G. Adderley, a son of Lord Norton. In 1893 
he had published a little book with a strongly Franciscan 
fiavor entitled Stephen RemarxThe Story of a Venture in 
Ethics, an effort in fictional form to popularize Christian 
Socialist principles. 

The following year Adderley with a few like-minded young 
clergymen inaugurated a brotherhood, the Society of Divine 
Compassion, whose members sought to live a mortified life, 
sharing the privation and discomfort of those who have no 
choice but to be poor. Adderley, however, left the Society 
within three years and it was while he was trying to convert 
a Mayfair congregation to Christian Socialism that John 
Hawes s path crossed his. It was Adderley who pressed upon 
John Sabatier s St. Francis of Assisi, which he devoured from 
cover to cover in one evening. Thus occurred John s first 
meeting with the Little Poor Man who from that moment 
became his spiritual inspiration, the saint whom he longed to 
imitate in the most literal manner possible. 

Fired by his new enthusiasm, John scoured the bookshops 
for Franciscan publications. His first find was Canon Knox 
Little s biography of the saint written from an Anglican 
point of view. Then how could he resist the olive-green, 
leather-bound Little Flowers of St. Francis it fit into his 
coat pocket! Equally tempting was the newly-published trans 
lation of The Mirror of Perfection^ and in a short time he 
would have Lina Duff Gordon s The Story of Assist^ which 
tnnst have sparked his interest in Franciscan architecture. It 
is a foregone conclusion that John read The Commonwealth, 
the monthly magazine of the Christian Social Union, whose 
articles based on Franciscan ideals pointed out how the work- 



The Young Seeker 15 

ing classes could be saved from sweated labor and exploita 
tion. 

Little by little the new discoveries that John was making 
drew him close to the Roman Catholic Church. Then one day 
came a letter signed fiBWilfred, Bishop Hornby. The un 
known writer explained that he had greatly admired the 
model church exhibited at the Royal Academy and wanted 
John Hawes to design for him a country church in North 
umberland. Would the young architect meet him at his Lon 
don club and talk over the matter? 

The invitation threw John into a quandary. He felt that 
it was a subtle form of temptation and, as he confesses, that 
the Bishop was the devil in disguise! His first impulse was 
not to reply, but after waiting a week he consulted his father, 
who told him not to be stupid. The next morning he went up 
to London to lunch with Bishop Hornby, who, he discovered, 
was the former bishop of Nyasaland. When John said good- 
by to him a short time later he had committed himself to pre 
pare plans for the Bishop s north-country church. 

For the rest of his life John was to suffer from scruples at 
the wisdom of accepting this commission. Looking back long 
afterward he said that it is probable that he might have be 
come a Catholic there and then had he not fallen into tempta 
tion. He felt that if he had entered the Friars Minor or the 
Capuchins his spiritual life would have been developed in 
submission of his will to authority and wise guidance, al 
though his intimates, knowing his strong individualistic tem 
perament, were inclined to doubt his ability to endure the 
novitiate. Nevertheless, John remained convinced that had he 
been faithful to the resolution made after his spiritual 
awakening, not only he but his parents would have found 
their way into the Catholic Church. In his own words, "I 
fell into the lower place, and tried to serve God there by put 
ting all my heart and soul into the designing of that little 



I6 The Hermit of Cat Island 
church in Northumberland. But alas! Once he who has put 
his hand to God s plow looks back he falls, not once but many 
times. These forty years past how have I fallen from ideals. 
From one lower place to another still lower " 

But in spite of his scruples, like St. Francis answering 
Christ s call to "... repair my church which is wholly a 
ruin," John set out not to rebuild a ruined church but to de 
sign a new one. He said good-by to his parents and moved to 
the pleasant Upper Tyneside village of Chollerton. There 
in Bishop Hornby s comfortable vicarage John settled down 
to work. On Sundays he acted as a "lay reader," and con 
ducted evening services in the neighboring village of Colwell. 
He visited the scattered farms and cottages, and taught the 
catechism in the village school at Chollerton. To all intents 
and purposes he acted as the Bishop s unordained curate. 

Once again he began to dream of becoming a Franciscan, 
but for the moment all he could achieve in this direction 
was to wear a homespun brown suit as an outward sign of 
his spiritual ideals. At first he was satisfied to make his long 
expeditions on foot, but later he was unable to resist the 
temptation to borrow a horse and ride over the countryside. 
He refused, however, to join in the killing of "Brother Fox" 
for sport this was absolutely vetoed by his natural and Fran 
ciscan love of animals. 

It was while he was living with Bishop Hornby at Choller 
ton that John had his first real contact with Catholics. Within 
a mile or two of the village was Swinburn Castle, the seat of 
the ancient Catholic family of Riddell, with its own chapel 
and resident priest. Many of the farmers and cottagers in this 
remote northern part of England had clung to the "Old Re 
ligion" after the Reformation, and it was a shock to John to 
ind "Romanism" so very much alive in rural England. 

Although like most Anglo-Catholics of his generation 
John no doubt would have argued that the Catholics were 



The Young Seeker 17 

"dissenters" and not part of the true Church of the country, 
he was dangerously attracted both to the worship and the 
chapel of the "schismatics." With his customary enthusiasm 
he set about designing his church at Gunnerton with the 
idea of making it approximate as closely as possible a Cath 
olic place of worship. This first church of John Hawes 
achieved a charm and originality equal to any other design 
of the period, and established him firmly in one of his two 
parallel careers. And slowly but insistently Bishop Hornby 
was urging him toward the second. 



The Poor Man s Follower [1901-1908] 



BY this time John had determined to model his life on that 
of St. Francis of Assisi, and in imitation of Francis, who out 
of humility had refused to become a priest, had set his will 
against taking holy orders. Bishop Hornby, however, was 
sure that John had a vocation to the priesthood and used all 
his powers of persuasion to induce the younger man to study 
for Anglican orders. Finally John gave way and entered the 
Lincoln Theological College in 1901. 

At this time advanced liberal views were being expressed 
in some English theological circles, and although these fil 
tered through to the Lincoln students by way of commen 
taries by nonconformist divines, the spiritual atmosphere of 
the college was not entirely congenial to a student who re 
garded himself a "Catholic.** The head of the diocese, Bishop 
King, was "High" in his opinions, but Dean Wickham, who 
ruled over the cathedral, was "Broad/ and he and his canons 
formed a compact and uniform social set that governed the 
thinking of the school. 

This, together with his discovery that the college build 
ings were of a nonecclesiastical cast, caused some dissatisfac 
tion to John, but he set about remedying the latter by secur 
ing the permission of the Warden to affix a six-foot wooden 

IS 



The Poor Man s Follower 19 

cross in the central pediment at roof level. His fellow students 
helped him adorn the cross with gold leaf so that it could be 
seen glittering in the sunlight above the lower parts of the 
city. 

Then he discovered a beautiful old church in the village 
of Nettleton five miles north of Lincoln where, on a Sunday 
morning, he and his friend Charles Selby-Hall used some 
times to attend the sung Eucharist which was more to their 
taste than the choral matins in the cathedral. This and his 
friendship with Selby-Hall helped to make up for the lack 
of Anglo-Catholicism at Lincoln. 

John s dreams of entering a religious community began to 
crystallize during his early months at Lincoln, and he not 
only explored the possibilities of existing Anglican groups, 
but designed a Gothic gatehouse for Alton Abbey, Hamp 
shire, and drew up plans for a stately abbey church. In addi 
tion he came upon an article in The Church Review which 
described the establishment of the Anglican Benedictine 
community in Yorkshire, a community founded in 1896 by 
a twenty-year-old medical student, Benjamin Fearnley Car- 
lyle, who took the religious name Aelred. Dynamic, imagina 
tive and irrepressibly optimistic, Carlyle visualized Anglican 
Benedictine abbeys scattered up and down the length of 
England. But things had not turned out exactly as he had 
expected. After six years his only community numbered but 
a dozen monks, and although he himself had managed to 
obtain the approval of Dr. Frederick Temple, the Archbishop 
of Canterbury, for his election as abbot, neither Aelred nor 
any of his monks had found an Anglican bishop willing to 
ordain them. 

In spite of these drawbacks Painsthorpe Abbey represented 
a monastic asceticism that quite swept John Hawes off his 
feet. He wrote at once to the Abbot and having received per 
mission from the warden to spend a weekend at the monas- 



20 The Hermit of Cat Island 

tery he set off to visit Painsthorpe. "Everything surpassed my 
expectations," he wrote. "... I longed to join the community 
then and there for the sake of the monastic life, but felt I 
could not because for me the religious life meant definitely 
the Franciscan form of it and nothing else." 

Nevertheless, the outwardly Catholic ethos of Painsthorpe 
delighted John. Here, for the first time, he assisted at the 
Divine Office chanted in Latin. The sight of tonsured monks 
in choir dressed in white habits and black scapulars, with 
black cowls or cloaks, raised him to the seventh heaven. Abbot 
Aelred was equally delighted with John and tried to divert 
him from what he considered his quixotic idea of founding 
a Franciscan brotherhood in the Church of England. He 
proposed that John enter the Benedictine novitiate as soon 
as he received Anglican orders, thereby assuring the abbey of 
the services of an ordained clergyman. 

In spite of Abbot Aelred s dominant personality and evi 
dent fascination, Hawes managed to withstand his persuasive 
powers. Of this encounter he says, "He saw that I was of a 
yielding, subjective nature, easily influenced and handled. 
But ... the Abbot did not reckon how absolutely unyielding 
and uncompromising I could be on a matter of real principle, 
so we never got down to definite conclusions." 

There was one immediate result achieved, however. The 
Abbot persuaded his architect guest to draw up plans for a 
chapel for which the foundation stone was laid in June 1902 
and which was opened on November 11 of the same year 
In the meantime John returned to Lincoln to continue 
his studies, but even though he had not taken the risk of com 
mitting himself to the Abbot of Painsthorpe, his contact with 
the Benedictines had aroused new discontent with typical 
Anglicanism. As the time drew near for his ordination to the 
diaconate he began to wonder if he would find a church with 
services sufficiently "Catholic." Bishop Hornby came to his 



The Poor Man s Follower 21 

rescue by giving him a letter to the Reverend Vincent Eyre, 
vicar of the Church of the Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell 
the stronghold of "extreme" Anglo-Catholicism in London. 
Father Eyre agreed to take on John as his junior curate as 
soon as he was raised to the diaconate, and Dr. Winnington 
Ingram, the Bishop of London, accepted him for his diocese. 

John with sixty other young men who were to be ordained 
retired to Fulham Palace for the short retreat that followed 
their two years at Lincoln. There the Thirty-Nine Articles 
were "administered to the ordinands like a dose of castor 
oil." Poor John, who at no time in his life was a casuist and 
never was given to equivocation, hardly knew what to do 
when it came to giving his assent to the Articles. He tells us 
that "when we raised our hands in Fulham Palace Library 
and solemnly swore before the bishop our assent to the 
Thirty-Nine Articles of religion, I felt a sudden trembling- 
it was the worst thing I had ever done in my life. At Lincoln 
I had read privately many books on Catholic doctrine adopted 
by the extreme Anglo-Catholic theologians, which argued 
how the blunt and obvious Protestant statements of the 
Articles and black rubrics could be interpreted in a Cath 
olic sense. It seemed that it was not really the sacrifice of the 
Mass that one of the Articles condemned in plain words as 
a blasphemous fable and dangerous deceit, but the sacrifices 
of Masses offered as fresh and numerical sacrifices independ 
ent of Calvary. It struck me then as a most lamentable and 
dishonest piece of special pleading. The real meaning seemed 
to be proved by the destruction of altars at the Reformation, 
and the rivers of blood poured out by seminary priests. My 
dear Mother, in her simple evangelical faith, had inculcated 
me with a deep and sacred reverence for literal truth, and 
here I was being unfaithful to her teaching." 

Once the Reverend John Hawes found himself the junior 
curate of the Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell, however, it was 



22 The Hermit of Cat Island 

easy for him to forget the more Protestant aspects of Angli 
canism. This church was something quite unique when 
opened in 1888. John D. Sedding had designed a gorgeous 
Renaissance interior, with the high altar standing beneath 
an imposing baldachino, which was a fairly close replica of 
that in Brunelleschf s Church of Santo Spirito at Florence. 
So Italian was the interior that Walter Pater said that it made 
him think of how some of the Renaissance churches in Venice 
must have looked when they were fresh and clean. The setting 
and decor were completely "ultramontane." A visitor would 
have found it hard to believe that he was in a place of worship 
belonging to the Church of England, what with the three 
altars, businesslike confessionals, stations of the cross, statues, 
vestments and incense. The new curate must have been thank 
ful to Bishop Hornby for having found him an environment 
which was so utterly and uncompromisingly "Catholic" in 
externals. Moreover, the immediate surroundings of the 
church provided exactly the outlet he sought for the fulfill 
ment of his Franciscan ideals. 

Fifty years ago the slums of Clerkenwell were as bad as 
any in London. Squalor, disease, unemployment and desti 
tution were commonplaces. At times, in desperation, the 
tenants would smash up the doors of the rooms for firewood 
and then disappear the night before the rent collector was 
due. John found it easy to share the poverty of the third of 
the parish allotted to him. He did not live in the clergy house, 
but in a little room, high up the stone stairs of a gloomy so- 
called "model dwelling" off Farringdon Street. From there 
he weait out to work among the poor families of the district, 
more than once, so he recalls, sitting up all night by a sick 
bed. He gave away everything he could spare, and that was 
not much, for he had refused to accept the salary of one hun 
dred fifty pounds offered him by Father Eyre, saying that he 
could manage quite well on ninety pounds a year. During 



The Poor Man s Follower 23 

Lent he made his breakfast off black coffee and hard ship s 
biscuit, often suffering acute indigestion from hungrily de 
vouring a surfeit of lentils at the one full meal of the day. 
He ate no meat from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday. 

The spiritual atmosphere of the clergy house would have 
struck any Catholic visitor as being very peculiar. The vicar 
belonged to one of the old English Catholic families which 
had held on to the Faith for nearly two centuries, and then 
lapsed into Anglicanism. Nevertheless, he had an intense love 
and veneration for the Pope and everything Roman, and 
longed to be in communion with the Holy See. John always 
maintained in after years that it was his vicar who taught him 
the foundp&on principles of Catholicism, above all the neces 
sity of Submission to authority. It was in this respect that 
Father Eyre differed from some of his fellow Anglo-Catholic 
clergy, who demonstrated their "Catholicism" by defying 
the orders of their bishop on every possible occasion; main 
taining that he had no binding power because Anglican 
bishops were merely state-appointed officials! 

Father Eyre, in deference to the Bishop of London, had 
already removed the sixth station of the cross, because St. 
Veronica does not appear in the Gospels, given up proces 
sional lights and the ceremonial use of incense, and finally 
removed the confessionals and substituted curtained prayer 
desks. When his new curate expostulated with him about 
pandering to Protestant prejudices, he remarked that no 
amount of external ritual and ceremonial could make the 
Church of England Catholic! Indeed, the vicar of the Holy 
Redeemer was looked upon as not being quite sound by some 
of his more aggressive clerical brethren. All the same, the 
Protestant Truth Society and the Church Association kept a 
close watch on the "goings on" in Clerkenwell, and from time 
to time reported illegalities to the Bishop of London. 

At the end of his first year at Holy Redeemer, John was 



24 The Hermit of Cat Island 

raised to the Anglican priesthood. Apparently he had no 
doubts about the validity of his Orders, and derived intense 
spiritual satisfaction from "saying Mass." Then in 1904 
Father Eyre had to resign his living for reasons of health, and 
Bishop Hornby persuaded him to take over the parish of 
Chollerton in Northumberland. John Hawes s new vicar 
was the Reverend Herbert Frith, who came to the Holy Re 
deemer from St. Mary Magdalen s, Munster Square. He was 
another extreme Anglo-Catholic, so there was no alteration 
in the services. 

Within the parish was situated the motherhouse of the 
Sisters of Bethany, a community founded in 1866. One of the 
sisters Sister Rosina was especially loved and respected 
by the poor because of her detachment and humility. A mu 
tual devotion to St. Francis of Assisi led to the development 
of a close friendship between her and Father Hawes. Largely 
through his influence Sister Rosina severed her connection 
with the Sisters of Bethany, and together with three mem 
bers of the Society left her convent in Lloyd Square resolved 
to establish a new community whose manner of life would 
conform to die most strict interpretation of holy poverty. 
Father Hawes found them a temporary refuge with the 
Sisterhood of the Holy Comforter at Edmonton, north of 
London, a small community which was in the process of be 
coming Benedictine, and was in close touch with Dom Aelred 
Carlyle. The latter arranged for Mother Rosina and her 
three companions to move to Hull, where the vicar of St. 
Mary s, Sculcoates, offered them a small house, which they 
named "St. Damian s" after the first convent of the Poor 
Clares outside Assisi. The new community adopted a brown 
Franciscan habit, knotted white cord and sandals. Mother 
Rosina, in her intense zeal for holy poverty, was trying to 
imitate the first Poor Clare nuns, but dispensed with their 
strict enclosure. Several young women joined her at Hull, 



The Toor Man s Follower 25 

and it was not long before they won the hearts of the poor 
working-class families around them. 

The success of Mother Rosina s venture aroused Father 
Hawes s desire to establish a similar community for men. 
The obvious thing to do was to seek admission to the Society 
of Divine Compassion whose Rule and manner of life ap 
proximated fairly closely to that of the first companions of 
St. Francis of Assisi. It seems, however, that Father Hawes had 
serious doubts as to whether these quasi-Franciscans were 
really "Catholic!" Moreover, the Brothers wore a black habit, 
like that of the Friars Minor Conventual. He could not con 
ceive of any true son of St. Francis wearing anything but 
brown or gray. So he felt he could not throw in his lot with 
the "black friars" who were working among the poor in the 
East London suburb of Plaistow. Their spirit struck him as 
too parochial, and the thought of having to recite the day 
hours in English instead of the Breviary in Latin was more 
than he could face. 

In his own words: "With the ignorance of youth and the 
presumptuous folly of a spiritual dilettante, I was determined 
to found a new community myself. Just as Aelred Carlyle had 
revived or re-established the Order of St. Benedict in the 
Church of England, so would I revive the Order of Friars 
Minor in communion with Canterbury. Before my imagina 
tion rose up all the glamor of the coarse brown tunic, white 
knotted rope, and sandals, and poor brethren living in a 
humble friary." It would appear that Father Hawes s knowl 
edge of Franciscan life was derived mainly from his reading. 
There is no evidence that he ever took the trouble to visit 
any of the then fairly numerous communities in England 
of the Observant Friars Minor or the Capuchins or that he 
ever studied their constitutions. 

In the summer of 1906 Abbot Aelred wrote to Father 
Hawes the astonishing news that he was about to become the 



26 The Hermit of Cat Island 

owner of the Isle of Caldey, off the coast of South Wales, 
thanks to the generosity of a young man who had offered to 
lend him six thousand pounds and take a mortgage of eight 
thousand pounds on the property. The Abbot asked Father 
Hawes if he would be prepared to resign his curacy in Lon 
don and take on the job of architect at Galdey. At the same 
time Father Hawes could combine architectural work with 
the novitiate which it had been understood he would make 
under Abbot Aelred as a probation for the Franciscan life. 
Such an offer could not be turned down, so in June Father 
Hawes slipped away from the slums of Clerkenwell without 
any farewell sermon or demonstrative sendoffs. 

After a brief holiday with his parents in Sussex, Father 
Hawes, described at this time as "very Roman in appearance, 
with his little cape and many buttons on his soutane, and 
a jaw which essayed to meet his nose/ traveled to South 
Wales with Abbot Aelred toward the end of July 1906. The 
latter, with even more than his usual optimism, was hopeful 
of raising at least seven thousand pounds to cover the cost 
of the really essential buildings which he pictured. The first 
thing he wanted were plans for a guesthouse. Then would 
follow a temporary monastery, referred to as "The Gate 
house," to accommodate between thirty and forty monks. Al 
though the community numbered no more than twenty, 
Abbot Aelred believed firmly that within a few years it 
would increase to more than a hundred. So Father Hawes 
was told that he must also plan a future abbey which would 
be a worthy successor to the great Benedictine masterpieces 
of medieval England. In addition to these new buildings, the 
Abbot wanted the church of the medieval priory restored; 
stalls for the brethren must be made at once and a new stone 
altar erected. Then the even more ancient village church 
must be restored and beautified. A round tower on the cliffs 
must be converted into an oratory. 



The Poor Man s Follower 



27 




Abbey Gatehouse, Caldey Island 

Never before had the priest-architect been given so much 
work to do in so little time. Bryan Burstall, the wealthy 
benefactor who had lent the money to buy the island, had 
offered to take on the job of clerk-of-works. He and Father 
Hawes settled down in a vacant cottage, where they lived 
in the utmost simplicity, and worked from dawn till dusk 
to get everything ready for the arrival of the community. 

"The Homecoming/ as it was called in after years, took 
place on October 18, 1906. For the first six months the 
brethren occupied the somewhat inconvenient quarters of 
the medieval priory. It was within its stone-vaulted church 
that Father Hawes was clothed with the novice s habit and 
given the religious name of Jerome. He and Burstall, who 
was made an oblate and known as Brother Illtud, were kept 
busy. Everything had to be assembled lime to be burned, 
workmen engaged; bricks, tiles and timber to be brought 
over from the mainland and unloaded on the beach at low 



28 The Hermit of Cat Island 

tide. life on Caldey was very different from what it had been 
at Glerkenwell for the previous three years, but Brother 
Jerome seems to have enjoyed himself, up to a point. 

In his reminiscences he tells us of rising at midnight to 
recite Matins and Lauds, of the strict silence broken only by 
an hour s recreation which was daily for the novices and 
three times a week for the seniors, and the meatless meals 
unappetizingly prepared by amateur cooks. Brother Jerome 
was introduced here to monastic manual labor, and learned 
to wash clothes and to bake bread in an old-fashioned brick 
oven. He admits that when occupied with ax or trowel he 
used "to find it very irksome* to have to lay down his tools 
when the church bell rang for one of the Little Hours. He 
speaks highly of the spirit of fervor and charity among the 
brethren, and how much he enjoyed bathing in some of the 
lovely sandy coves. He reveals that "the even course of life 
was sometimes agitated," especially when two of the Brothers 
left the island without warning, to be received into the 
Catholic and Roman Church. It was about this time that 
Abbot Aelred had to contradict the widely circulated reports 
that he had "sought recognition of his community from the 
Abbot Primate of the Roman Obedience." As Brother Je 
rome remarks: "A tremor from Rome had shaken the foun 
dations of this Benedictine house built on the shifting sands 
of Anglo-Catholicism portent of the earthquake which 
would occur six years later with the conversion of the major 
ity of these Anglican monks." 

Reading between the lines of these memoirs of a year on 
Caldey Island, one forms the impression that relations be 
tween the novice and his dynamic Abbot were often some 
what strained, chiefly because of the latter s utter indifference 
to monastic poverty when it concerned buildings. Brother 
Jerome confesses that it was annoying, when he had been 
working on plans and elevations, to have the Abbot scrap 



The Poor Man s Follower 29 

the drawings and insist on something more ambitious. The 
abbatial imagination ran riot and costs were never counted. 
Nothing but the biggest and the most ornate would satisfy 
him. Brother Jerome, on the other hand, was more interested 
in humble little hermitages like those of the first Capuchins. 
"I myself," he wrote, "longed to rebuild the ruins of the 
hermitage on St. Margaret s Island, adjoining Caldey." The 
basically more practical-minded novice could not work up 
any real enthusiasm for a dream abbey planned on a scale 
greater than that of any medieval Cluniac monastery. 

By the summer of 1907 it became quite clear to Abbot 
Aelred that he had lost all hope of turning Brother Jerome 
into a Benedictine, or of making permanent use of him on 
Caldey. So he called in another architect, and all those plans, 
sections and elevations which the novice had drawn under 
holy obedience were laid aside and forgotten. The cardboard 
model of the dream abbey on which he had worked so hard 
was destroyed. 

Now, to his joy, Brother Jerome was given more freedom. 
He started to grow a beard, and was allowed to retire to a 
cave in the limestone cliffs, where for a few weeks he lived 
as a hermit. Every morning, after a dip in the sea, he walked 
to the village church where he said Mass. His austerity and 
fervor filled one of the novices with such wonder and admira 
tion that he confided to the hermit that he would throw in 
his lot with him, once the Franciscan brotherhood had been 
established. Abbot Aelred must have felt that Brother Jerome 
was a dangerous influence, and that the sooner he left the 
island, the better it would be, otherwise more novices even 
professed monks might be tempted to desert St. Benedict 
for St. Francis. 

At the end of the year of his novitiate, therefore, Brother 
Jerome left Caldey to begin his Franciscan adventure. He 
had not, however, been professed, for he was told that he 



30 The Hermit of Cat Island 

needed further probation. This was a blow to the eager 
would-be friar and he decided to go to Essex to the novitiate 
of the Society of the Divine Compassion. Here again he was 
disappointed. The superior of the community, Father Wil 
liam Sirr, refused to accept the validity of the Caldey proba 
tion, and regretted that te felt unable to profess Brother 
Jerome. If the latter felt called to be a Franciscan, why 
could he not join the Society of the Divine Compassion in 
stead of wanting to found a rival brotherhood? 

Brother Jerome did not know what to do. Perhaps a further 
test was needed. He resolved to follow the example of St. 
Francis by undertaking a pilgrimage in the medieval man 
ner he would go on a tramp through England. 

One of the Caldey Benedictines Dom George Chambers 
who was spending the year of his diaconate as curate of St. 
Philip s, Dalston, put him up for a week or two. 

Having made his confession and said Mass in St. Philip s 
Church on the feast of St. Francis, October 4, 1907, Brother 
Jerome changed into the "beggar s clothes" which he had 
brought with him a shabby jacket, flannel shirt, patched 
trousers and an old cap. Without a penny in his pocket, with 
nothing but a breviary and a crucifix, he stepped barefooted 
into the street at midnight. With his face smeared with mud, 
and with his ragged, unkempt beard, nobody he met was 
likely to recognize him as a priest of the Church of England. 
"It was my strict rule never to beg," he recorded, "but 
take anything offered me, and to do any work when I could. 
God and St. Francis provided for all my wants. As I walked 
along the road, a man would call to me and throw me a 
penny. Or some shy-looking fellow would come up and press 
a sixpence into my hand. After four days tramping my feet 
were cut and bleeding, then a woman leaning on the fence 
of a poor little cottage called me to stop. I went in and she 
brought out an old pair of boots of her husband. I learned 



The Poor Man s Follower 31 

much. I consorted with other tramps and outcasts; no man 
could say that he was poorer than I was. I slept (or shivered) 
under hedges, haystacks, railway trucks, in church porches, 
in the casual wards of workhouses, and once was taken up 
by a policeman, very nearly being lodged in prison. I learned 
the value of a penny. I would buy a farthing s worth of tea 
in a screw of paper, another of sugar and a ha penth of bread. 
When rich I could pay twopence for a good night s rest in a 
bed of a common lodginghouse. In a town I picked up and ate 
the bread that school children had thrown away on the street. 
On one occasion, after such a meal, I was forty hours without 
another bite of anything only drinks of water and walked 
some thirty miles on it. 

"I walked with the praises of God on my lips, and joy and 
liberty in my soul. I would find some quiet, deserted place 
where I could stop and rest under a tree, and read my Office. 
Whenever possible I would hear Mass in the morning at some 
Catholic church lying on my way; or at the daily celebration 
of the Eucharist in an Anglican church, but in these latter 
the verger kept a very suspicious eye on me. 

"After tramping through Surrey and Sussex, I arrived one 
evening at Crawley, where I camped in a ditch under a scanty 
hedge of thorn. It came on to rain, and the night seemed very 
long. In the morning I was glad to hear the bells of St. Fran 
cis Church ringing. I went to Mass. It was Sunday, but no 
body looked askance or stared at me as people would have 
done in an Anglican church. After Mass I went round to the 
friary and rang the bell. A kind bearded Capuchin lay Brother 
gave me a huge cup of tea and two big slices of bread, and let 
me sit down in the entrance hall to eat my breakfast. 

"I decided that I would call at St. Hugh s Charterhouse, 
about ten miles from Crawley. Late that evening I arrived at 
this great Carthusian monastery, quite dead beat. The lay 
Brother who opened the door said: We don t give anything 



32 The Hermit of Cat Island 

away now; we used to do, but so many came that the police 
objected. If you go on to West Grinstead and call at the pres 
bytery, they will give you some food there/ 

" How far is it? I asked. About two miles/ the Brother 
replied, as he closed the great door. So all I could do was to 
lie down with my head against the door. I was much too 
weary to tramp any farther. It was raining hard. I dozed and 
shivered through the long night, soaked to the skin. I heard 
the bell toll for Matins as I lay on the hard stone pavement. 
Morning dawned at last, and another lay Brother opened the 
door. I asked him if I could hear Mass. No!* he said. So, re 
freshed with the rest to my feet, if not to other parts of my 
body, I went off down the drive. 

"I tramped on day after day in a westward direction, pass 
ing through Reading, until I reached Oxford. Here I called 
at the Mission House of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, 
better known as The Cowley Fathers/ I asked if there was 
any wood I could chop, or odd jobs I could do about the yard. 
Never mind about that, God bless you/ said the kindly 
Anglican lay Brother, who gave me a grand feed of meat. 
After leaving Oxford I made my way north to Warwick, and 
so through Lincoln until at last I landed up at Hull. With 
some difficulty I discovered St. Damian s Convent, where I 
knocked at the door and asked the Sister if she could spare 
a bit of something to eat. I laughed when she did not 
recognize me. Needless to add that Mother Rosina and her 
little community then gave me a real Franciscan wel 
come." 

The "tramp" returned to London on a small coastal 
steamer. While he was hanging around the streets of Dalston, 
awaiting his friend, Dom George Chambers, the police 
watched him suspiciously, and warned the vicarage staff 
about this disreputable character they had noticed going into 
St. Philip s Church. But after Brother Jerome had taken off 



The Poor Man s Follower 33 

his dirty old clothes and resumed his clerical suit, there was 
no more trouble. 

Things then began to move quickly. Abbot Aelred, who 
was on one of his fairly frequent begging tours around 
Britain, wrote from the Isle of Man that his host, Goldie 
Taubman, a wealthy Anglo-Catholic bachelor squire, needed 
a domestic chaplain. Mr. Taubman had hoped that one of 
the Caldey monks would be at his disposal, but the Abbot 
explained that only one of them was in holy orders and that 
he could not leave his curacy in London. So he suggested 
that Brother Jerome should take on the duties, and pointed 
out that the almost complete seclusion of the large property 
would be ideal for a further testing of his Franciscan vocation. 
This really looked like a direct answer to prayer. Within a 
few days Brother Jerome and Brother Cuthbert the ex- 
Caldey novice were in Liverpool. Here they met Abbot Ael 
red, who was on his way back from the Isle of Man. The 
Abbot, so one gathers from Brother Jerome s reminiscences, 
was not exactly sympathetic. He warned him not to cross his 
path, or to try to steal away any more of his community, 
otherwise there would be trouble! 

It was in the last week of November 1907 that the two 
would-be Franciscans reached the Isle of Man by steamer 
from Liverpool. No more romantic spot could have been 
chosen as the setting for "reviving" the First Order of St. 
Francis in communion with Canterbury than this large is 
land halfway between England and Ireland. Mr. Taubman s 
private chapel, dedicated to St. Bridget of Ireland, was a 
restored medieval building, dating from the fourteenth cen 
tury. It stood at the far end of the park, well away from the 
big house, which was known as "The Nunnery." 

Having taken possession of the chaplain s comfortable lit 
tle house, Brother Jerome wasted no time in trying to make 
it as uncomfortable as possible. He had clear and definite 



34 The Hermit of Cat Island 

ideas as to what a Franciscan friary ought to resemble, and 
this one must be as poverty-stricken as the derelict shelter at 
Rivo Torto, where St. Francis lodged with his first disciples. 
Mr. Taubman was both surprised and shocked to discover 
that all the easy chairs, curtains, cushions, ornaments and 
tablecloths had disappeared. He noticed that the many pic 
tures had been removed from the walls, and the carpets lifted. 
When he asked what had been done with his furniture, he 
was told that it was safely stored away in a lumber room. 
The iron bedsteads with their spring mattresses were dis 
mantled, and the two friars slept on the bare, hard floor 
boards. Mice ran over them at night. Brother Cuthbert set 
traps, and when the "Father Guardian," in true Franciscan 
spirit, released the captive mice, the Brother protested. The 
observance instituted by Brother Jerome seems to have been 
based upon what he had read about the manner of life of 
the first followers of the Little Poor Man, or that of the early 
Capuchin hermits. The two young men rose at midnight to 
recite Matins and Lauds in Latin. Their diet was nothing 
if not penitential. 

For the first few weeks Mr. Taubman was delighted to have 
found a chaplain of such uncompromising "Catholic" opin 
ions. But this quixotic Franciscan adventure came to an end 
after little more than four months. Mr. Taubman warned 
his domestic chaplain that the Isle of Man was a stronghold 
of old-fashioned Protestantism, which had remained imper 
vious to Anglo-Catholic influences. Hence it was most unwise 
for Brother Jerome and his companion to walk in their 
brown habits and sandals along the country lanes and over 
the hills. The people would be scared out of their lives, be 
cause the only Religious they had ever set eyes on were the 
few Roman Catholic Sisters of Mercy who conducted a small 
school in Douglas. 



The Poor Man s Follower 35 

Tension increased when Mr. Taubman insisted that all the 
furnishings of the chapel must be exactly as he chose to have 
them. If Brother Jerome moved flower vases or candlesticks, 
they were put back again immediately. The situation became 
impossible. One day the two friars packed up their few per 
sonal belongings and bolted from the Isle of Man. Uncertain 
as this left them as to their future, it turned out to be prov 
idential for Brother Jerome for he received an invitation 
from Father Adderley to become one of his curates at Saltley, 
Birmingham. With the blessing and permission of Dr. Gore, 
the Bishop of Birmingham, Brother Jerome was professed 
as a Franciscan by Father Adderley, and given charge of the 
newly opened mission church of St. Francis of Assisi. The so- 
called "friary" consisted of two slum cottages knocked into 
one. 

Shortly after Easter, 1908, Brother Jerome and Brother 
Cuthbert resumed very much the same sort of life they had 
attempted in the Isle of Man, and with an equal indifference 
to the fact that conditions which were endurable in Italy in 
the thirteenth century were more than the average young 
Englishman of the early twentieth century could put up with. 
But after a month or two Brother Cuthbert departed, to find 
his vocation eventually as a clergyman of the Episcopal 
Church in the United States, where he married a rich widow. 
Then another young man, but this time not from Caldey, 
came to join Brother Jerome. This was his only postulant, 
and he did not manage to endure the austere life for more 
than a few weeks. The Founder found himself a hermit-mis 
sionary in the slums of Saltley. 

It must have been a consolation to him that Mother Ros- 
ina s Community of St. Francis was adding to its numbers. 
By the summer of 1908 the Sisters had moved from Hull to 
London, and found a house in Dalston for their convent 



36 The Hermit of Cat Island 

where several novices were professed by Dr. Cosmo Gordon 
Lang, then Bishop of Stepney, who in after years became 
Archbishop of York and then of Canterbury. 

But for Brother Jerome a year had gone by and he was 
still without a community. He was frustrated, and "very dis 
gusted with the ritualistic, socialistic and incipient modern 
ism of most of the clergy at Saltley." Furthermore, his faith 
in Anglicanism had been shaken by the news received in the 
early summer of 1908 that the Reverend William McGarvey 
and six other American Episcopalian clergymen had been 
received into the Roman Church, and the Community of 
the Companions of the Holy Savior disbanded. By autumn 
of 1908 it was reported that twenty-one clergymen and about 
fifty laymen across the Atlantic had followed Father McGar 
vey and his companions on the road to Rome. Never before 
had there been such terrible losses to Anglo-Catholicism. 
One day he could stand the environment no longer. The 
urge came to go on the tramp again, for "a breath of real 
Franciscan freedom, rags and rain." So early one Monday 
morning he took off his friar s habit and donned the old 
clothes of the tramp, which had been carefully preserved, and 
set off on the roads. This time he intended to try street 
preaching. 

He traveled all day northward from Birmingham through 
the squalid streets of coal-mining villages-the depressing 
poverty-stricken "Black Country.- That evening he stopped 
in the midst of one of these straggling villages, and with a 
conscious effort, screwed up his courage to begin. Having 
sung a verse or two of one of the sentimental Llanthony mis 
sion hymns, the "tramp" mounted a doorstep to begin his 
ennui. He spoke to the people as simply as possible of God 

^d ?" f T ^ manklnd f Sin hdl > ^tance 
and heaven. A crowd soon collected around the queer-look 
ing bearded lay preacher. When he finished, th^prted 



The Poor Man s Follower 37 

forward with pennies. Brother Jerome raised his voice and 
said: "Dear brothers and sisters, I don t want your money: I 
am bound by a vow not to take any, but if you can give me 
some food I will take what is enough for my need." Some 
went back to their cottages and brought out bread and slices 
of meat, tea, sugar and other food. They pressed their gifts 
upon the preacher, saying, "God bless you." 

Brother Jerome bade them good-by and climbed up on to 
a slag heap beside a coal mine, where he found an overturned 
railway wagon. Beneath it he spent the night. His sleep was 
disturbed by a fierce dog that prowled around and barked 
at him. After preaching in a few more villages he made his 
way back to Saltley, feeling that he had achieved at least a 
modicum of Franciscan release. 

In those reminiscences which he jotted down many years 
later Brother Jerome recalls that Father Adderley s large 
vicarage was "a rendezvous for all sorts of social reformers 
some wise, some cranks, some worse than cranks." Among 
the men whom he mentions having met there was George 
Lansbury, Cecil Chesterton and Philip Snowden all later 
to become famous as social reformers and politicians. Hardly 
knowing what to do with his zealous but eccentric curate, 
Father Adderley suggested that he might consider joining 
another Anglican clergyman who had recently launched out 
into the depths of Franciscanism. This was the Reverend 
George Martin, formerly the rector of a parish in Devonshire, 
and very wealthy. One day he had astonished and shocked 
his friends and relations by giving away all his money and 
ridding himself of all other possessions. Now he was living 
from hand to mouth in the slums of South London, support 
ing himself by working as a common porter in the Southwark 
Market. 

"It seemed just the right sort of Franciscanism," Brother 
Jerome writes, "but I could not bring myself to make such 



38 The Hermit of Cat Island 

an utter surrender, involving having no church and not being 
able to celebrate Mass daily. It would also have meant aban 
doning the ideal of founding an order with a regular reli 
gious observance, and I just could not face giving up wearing 
my brown habit. 

"I think that here again I missed something higher and of 
greater reality that God was then calling me to. Had I gone 
to join George Martin, as Father Adderley advised, the Light 
to see and enter the one true Church might have come to me 
sooner; and perhaps George Martin might have come with 
me." 

Then while Brother Jerome was alternately toying with 
the idea of finding his true vocation in life of complete pov 
erty in the slums of South London and simultaneously dis 
carding it, he got word that an unexpected field of work 
awaited him in a place where he would be quite free to prac 
tice all his Catholic ideals, and to continue as a Franciscan. 



3. 



"Roman Fever" [1908-1911] 



ONCE again it was Bishop Hornby who came to Brother 
Jerome s aid. In a letter written in the late autumn of 1908 
he told the younger man of the devastation that had been 
caused by a hurricane that had recently swept the Bahamas, 
and appealed for both his architectural and priestly help. 
The Bishop offered Brother Jerome the charge of Long Is 
land, saying, "Surely this is a God-sent opportunity for a 
work that only you can do/ 

No sooner had he finished reading the letter than Brother 
Jerome felt that here was a sign. Jumping up, exultant, he 
dashed straight to Father Adderley to beg his permission to 
resign his curacy so that he could be off at once to the Ba 
hamas. The good vicar gave his impetuous curate his bless 
ing, the "friary" was dissolved, and Brother Jerome imme 
diately cabled Bishop Hornby that he would be with him 
at the first possible moment. 

In a fit of prudence, however, he decided that it would 
be wise to inoculate himself against possible future attacks 
of "Roman fever/ so having said farewell to his parents he 
rushed off to South Wales to spend a week on Caldey Island. 
There he was both soothed and stimulated by the glamor 
and romance of this "Church within the Church." In the lit- 

39 



40 The Hermit of Cat Island 

tie chapel with its curtained tabernacle and its bitter-sweet 
odor of incense, from where the black-cowled figures slipped 
away into the blackness of night after a final chanting of the 
Adoremus in aeternum, how could the guest have further 
doubts about being truly a Catholic? Every morning he went 
to the altar and celebrated Mass to have questioned his 
priesthood would have been almost blasphemy. His recurring 
doubts about Anglicanism were quieted by his week on Cal- 
dey. All the old fires were rekindled and he returned to the 
mainland convinced that the Church of his baptism would 
also be the Church of his death. 

But emotional ups and downs seemed to be the core and 
fabric of Brother Jerome s character at this period. His re 
newed faith in Anglo-Catholicism again was shaken when he 
heard that his cousin, whom he had started on the High 
Church path, had been received into the Roman Church. 
Nevertheless, he shook off his doubts and boarded the New 
York-bound Mauretania. 

Off the coast of Ireland the ship began to pitch and toss in 
the mountainous seas of a winter gale. Brother Jerome, 
groaning in his berth, began to fear drowning and to wonder 
if after all he would not have been safer in the barque of 
Peter. However, he landed safely in a snowbound New York 
from where he took the next steamer for Nassau. When he 
arrived at the island about the middle of January 1909, 
Bishop Hornby welcomed him with open arms, and the in 
tensely sensitive young man found himself spellbound by the 
strong sun, blue skies and seas, and the strangely attractive 
tropical world of New Providence Island. Everything sur 
passed his wildest expectations. 

At once he resumed his Franciscan garb and set off with 
the Bishop on a visitation tour of the northern islands. They 
traveled in a converted North Sea smack, brought out from 
England, which belonged to the Episcopalian mission and 



"Roman Fever" 41 

which was manned by a native crew of captain, cook and four 
seamen. Brother Jerome wrote enthusiastically of the voyage, 
"It was genuine sailing and seamanship as there were no 
auxiliary motors in those days to help a boat get out of a 
scrape. Even the mail boats at that date were sailing 
schooners, and some of them were very fast." 

After his initial tour of the islands, Brother Jerome settled 
in on Long Island. Clarence Town, the center of his parish, 
had suffered badly from the hurricane, and its church had 
been razed to the ground, so that Sunday services had to be 
held in the rectory, which was relatively untouched. Brother 
Jerome established himself at Deadman s Cay, ten miles 
north of Clarence Town, where the nave of the church was 
still intact, with the chancel open to the weather. From the 
debris around he built himself a little eight-foot shack, filling 
the superstitious natives with horror. "An you sleep right 
here in the churchyard among the graves? Aren t you afraid 
of the speerits?" they asked him. To which their pastor made 
answer that it was "right handy here, and that there was 
plenty of room for both him and the dead people." When he 
lay down at night in his little hut, big land crabs walked 
over him and scrambled over the roof of the shack. Some 
times he would hear a night bird let forth a weird screech. 
Had he been of a nervous temperament, the loneliness would 
indeed have been eerie. 

But Brother Jerome looked around at his parish and felt 
that his earlier missionary yearnings were about to be satis 
fied. Although the population of Long Island was largely 
white, made up of poor farmers or fishermen, there was no 
color bar and nothing like the Jim Crow segregation of Nas 
sau. The first task that faced him was to raise a new church 
to take care of these people, and this would obviously re 
quire all his ingenuity and architectural experience, for 
to make any building hurricane proof in these storm-swept 



42 The Hermit of Cat Island 

islands was a herculean endeavor. There was nothing for it, 
he decided, but to discard any ideas o using concrete roofs, 
which would eventually crack from the salt-laden air, and get 
back to the simplicity of primitive building. 

His first experiment with rock roofs was on the big Lady 
chapel of the ruined church at Deadman s Cay. He gathered 
a crowd of willing workers, each volunteering two or three 
days of labor. If a man possessed a trowel, it made him a 
mason; the ownership of a rusty old saw, a carpenter. Women 
and girls toted rocks on their heads, or pails of sand and water, 
and some of them lighted fires over which galley pots bubbled 
and boiled the hominy for a ten-o clock breakfast. Half-naked 
children played underfoot with the dogs, or slept under the 
palm trees. In this gay and uninhibited atmosphere the 
eastern walls of the church of Deadman s Cay rose once again. 
The moment came to remove the wooden centering. 
Brother Jerome called out, "Now come along there, you re 
a strong fellow lend a hand." The man addressed drew 
back reluctantly and replied, "Not me, Farder, not for all 
the bank of Nassau would I take away one of them props 
from under the rocks!" Brother Jerome laughed heartily at 
this and told the men to watch. He demonstrated just how 
the wooden centering under the arch was to be dismantled 
and removed; then after some persuasion six men volun 
teered to help. Carefully they lowered the centering, leaving 
the stones apparently unsupported Then Brother Jerome 
put a ladder against the wall, mounted it agilely, and danced 
on the crown of the arch to the great amazement of the on 
lookers, who expected it to fall in promptly. 

With his church repaired, Brother Jerome felt it was time 
to visit the villages and church north of Deadman s Cay 
Since this could be done most easily by sea he bought a small, 
decked cutter, the Hispaniola, so seaworthy a vessel that he 
once sailed her two hundred miles to Nassau to attend the 



"Roman Fever" 43 

Diocesan Synod, taking three days for the voyage. He could 
sleep in the Hispaniola, and carry barrels of cement and 
other building materials, and for his crew he engaged a 
twelve-year-old Negro boy. Unfortunately the boat was not 
usable for visiting southern Long Island, which could be 
reached only by road, so he bought a sturdy pony to carry 
him to the southerly villages. And there were plenty of these 
visitations to be made since all except three of the dozen 
churches on the island had been destroyed. 

For the most part Brother Jerome was able to indulge him 
self to his heart s content in "Catholic" services and externals, 
for the Church of England Bahamians were considered to be 
among the most advanced in the Anglican communion. But 
at one of his mission stations, Simms, the overwhelmingly 
white congregation was strongly opposed to High Church 
ways. They informed their Franciscan pastor that they did not 
want the Mass, but merely the "Lord s Supper." They would 
have nothing to do with confession, images, candles, incense, 
wafers or holy water. They strongly disapproved of the Virgin 
Mary. 

Poor Brother Jerome was terribly upset at being con 
fronted by this manifestation of militant Protestantism among 
his flock. He wrote, "I found the people assembled to meet 
me. . . . After polite and friendly greetings we got right down 
at once to brass tacks. What were my plans as to the ordering 
of faith and worship in their church? The storekeeper said, 
When my grandfather came here we were Church of Eng 
land, and they tell us we were Protestants. When Father 
Wilkinson came along, he tell us it s Catholic, and he try 
and force all these strange things on us/ " 

What could he tell them? Used as he was to diversities of 
opinion and "glorious comprehensiveness" anything you 
fancy, high or low, short of popery, its meaning had never 
been brought home to Brother Jerome so clearly as at that 



44 The Hermit of Cat Island 

moment. Here were people on a lonely island in the Atlantic, 
faithful to such tradition as they had received, who were im 
patient of novelties, and to whom religion was their only 
solace in fact, their only diversion. Brother Jerome had al 
ways admitted that in the Church of England there were two 
rival and conflicting interpretations of its basic character. 
It struck him, then and there, that these people had just as 
much right to hold their point of view as he had to hold his. 
In a flash he saw his vision of a totally Anglo-Catholic Long 
Island parish crumble to ashes. His picture of Nassau as a 
united diocese was shattered to atoms. It dawned on him how 
futile it was to go on imagining that the Church of England 
would ever be "Catholicized" as a united body. 

To quote his own words: "So I gave my reply (ignomin- 
iously climbing down* before the eyes of zealous men like 
Father* Wilkinson). I assured the people of Simms I would 
force nothing on them or in their church against their will. 
I only wanted to help them love and serve God better. My 
subsequent visits to their settlement were always peaceful 
and pleasant ones. At the Communion service I gave them 
ordinary bread instead of the small unleavened round wafers 
used elsewhere. They remained faithful and loyal to the 
Church of England until some later clergyman walked again 
in the steps of Father Wilkinson, when they all left the 
Anglican Church and joined one or other of some new 
American Protestant sects that happened to be proselytizing 
in the Bahamas. Thirty years later, when I revisited Long 
Island as a Catholic priest, the old people left at Simms who 
remembered me gave me the heartiest welcome of all." 

The church at Deadman s Cay was entirely rebuilt within 
the next year. Abbot Aelred Carlyle of Caldey presented the 
cast of the statue of "Notre-Dame sous Terre" in Chartres 
Cathedral, similar to the small statue designed by Brother 
Jerome which used to stand in the monastery chapel at Pains- 



"Roman Fever" 45 

thorpe. Two other altars, dedicated to the Sacred Heart and 
St. Francis, were erected, also a rood screen with a large cruci 
fix. Over the high altar was a baldachino with four Greek 
Doric columns, carrying semicircular arches. Brother Jerome 
was determined that this church should look as "Catholic" 
as he could make it. An old Negro lady, when she first saw 
it, held up her apron and curtsied, exclaiming, "Am 1 dat 
beautiful, dat de Hebenly Jerusalem!" 

The following reminiscences give us an idea of Brother 
Jerome s state of mind at this time, "Never in my life, and 
especially since I became a clergyman of the Church of Eng 
land, had I ever spoken a word against the Roman Catholic 
Church or the Pope. Bound up with my large altar edition 
of the Book of Common Prayer was the Latin canon of the 
Missale Romanum. Every time, and that was daily, I cele 
brated the Communion service I added secretly the Latin 
canon, and prayed that the holy Catholic Church might be 
granted peace, protected, united, and governed throughout 
the world cum famulo tuo Papa nostro Pio! In all good 
faith I believed I had valid Orders and was a real Catholic 
priest. I always taught the people that as we said the Creed, 
and recited the words *I believe in the Holy Catholic Church/ 
that the Church was governed by bishops and that the chief 
bishop and head of the whole Church was the successor of 
St. Peter the Pope. 

"How fervent and responsive were those dear people on 
Long Island! What a crowded church we had on Sunday 
mornings! They traveled the roads barefooted, carrying their 
shoes and socks, putting these on by the churchyard before 
entering the building. A couple of men with violins, under 
the rood screen, led the singing, and if there had been any 
organ, I don t think you could have heard it!" 

The biggest church to be rebuilt was St. Paul s, Clarence 
Town. Brother Jerome and his workers labored over this 



46 The Hermit of Cat Island 

large structure; then, just after the centering of the chancel 
arches had been removed, a terrible storm arose. About mid 
night the whole roof collapsed and fell in. The work had to 
be started all over again, this time with the walls a foot 
thicker. Since then many hurricanes have swept over Long 
Island, but the church at Clarence Town, with its twin 
towers, has stood secure. 

More than the physical collapse of a church was in store 
for Brother Jerome, however. In spite of his contentment 
with his Bahamian existence and the apparent fulfillment of 
his vocation, a new series of shocks began to undermine the 
last of his wavering Anglican convictions. For a number of 
years he had taken a keen interest in the Society of the Atone 
ment, an American religious order founded by the Reverend 
Lewis T. Wattson, known in religion as Father Paul James 
Francis, and Mother Lurana, a former member of the Ang 
lican Sisterhood of the Holy Child Jesus. The Society, Fran 
ciscan in spirit, had as its purpose to pray for Church unity 
and reunion with the Holy See. The Church Unity Octave, 
first observed in 1908, had met a sympathetic response from 
Brother Jerome, and The Prince of the Apostles, written 
jointly by Father Paul and the Reverend Spencer Jones, had 
had a pronounced influence on his thinking. 

When the news reached him that the Graymoor commu 
nity had "abandoned the sinking ship" to board the Barque 
of Peter, he felt that the ground had been cut from under his 
feet. He immediately wrote to Mother Rosina, whose views 
were so similar to his own, only to discover after an exchange 
of letters that she had come to the conclusion that she had 
no alternative but to be received into the Roman Catholic 
Chwch. Mother Rosina wrote that she and a few companions 
were leaving their convent in North London and embark 
ing for North America. A short time thereafter Brother Ter- 
ome heard that she and her companions had been reconciled 



"Roman Fevei" 47 

to the Mother Church at Graymoor and had applied for ad 
mission to the novitiate of the Society of the Atonement. 

Added to this news, which then and there almost cata 
pulted Brother Jerome into the Catholic Church, came word 
that several leading Anglo-Catholic clergymen in Brighton, 
along with many of their parishioners, had made their sub 
mission to Rome. His sole hope lay in Abbot Aelred, who 
wrote that Anglicans must make an even more militant stand 
for the faith and fight all symptoms of "Roman fever," and 
who enlarged optimistically on the foundations he hoped to 
make at Pershore, Prinknash and Llanthony. The Abbot al 
most managed to rekindle Brother Jerome s waning enthusi 
asm for Anglican Franciscanism by describing his plan for 
purchasing a property at Assisi to serve as an Anglo-Catholic 
guesthouse. It was almost enough to send Brother Jerome 
posthaste to Umbria where he could see himself saying Mass 
daily in the world of St. Francis. 

Nevertheless, his blissful isolation on his Caribbean island 
had cracked. Hard as he tried to follow Abbot Aelred s advice 
and to console himself with church building and the "Cathol- 
icization" of his warm-hearted flock, he found himself in a 
continuous state of spiritual depression. When he read in 
The Church Times that the Bishop of Salisbury had preached 
in a Lutheran church in Germany, that the Bishop of Man 
chester had refused to allow his clergy to wear vestments, that 
the Bishop of Hereford had invited dissenters to receive Holy 
Communion, and that the Bishop of Liverpool had asked 
nonconformist ministers to take part in interdenominational 
missions in his diocese, it was difficult for him not to despair 
of Anglo-Catholicism. 

So Brother Jerome drifted on from week to week, from 
month to month. Then one morning in the late autumn of 
1910 he opened a copy of the Graymoor publication, The 
Lamp, which had just come in the mail. An article on "The 



48 The Hermit of Cat Island 

Necessity for Certitude" caught his attention. Its clear reason 
ing and biting logic were so compelling that he read it 
through twice, then threw the magazine to the floor, exclaim 
ing, "That finishes me!" 

"From that hour," he wrote, "I began to set my house in 
order and to pack up. My heart had long been in Rome, but 
now my head was bringing me over boldly. ..." 

On the Sunday after the Feast of the Conversion of St. 
Paul, January 25, 1911, the first service was held in the re 
stored church at Clarence Town. Standing before the ba 
roque stone altar, dressed in his vestments, Brother Jerome 
told his congregation that he was going to Nassau for a visit, 
but he did not tell his people how long he would be gone. 
He did not return for thirty years. When he left the church 
after Mass he saw the mail boat in the harbor, three or four 
days before she was expected. In order to get on board he had 
to rush so much that most of his possessions, including his 
books, were left behind. 

The moment the boat docked at Nassau, Brother Jerome 
went straight to Bishop Hornby to tell him that he had de 
cided to "go over to Rome." 

"I see it s no good arguing with you any more/* said the 
kindly Bishop, after a half-hour s discussion. "Let s drop the 
subject and go for a walk." 

The Bishop asked Brother Jerome as a final favor to dis 
cuss the Roman claims with Dr. Mortimer a well-known 
Episcopalian theologian of High Church opinions when he 
arrived in New York. He also informed Brother Jerome that 
he would continue to regard him as one of his clergy and pay 
his salary until such time (if it came) that he had actually 
been received into the Roman Church. 

"Dear Bishop Hornby, so long my faithful friend how it 
saddened me to give him this pain," wrote Brother Jerome. 
"We always corresponded up to the time of his death, and 
I met him again in England. 



"Roman Fever" 49 

"The following Sunday I declined to say Mass, but 
preached at St. Mary s my final ministration as an Anglican 
clergyman/ 

The fortnightly mail steamer from Jamaica called at Nas 
sau on its way to New York. There were few passengers on 
that trip, but among them was Brother Jerome who had a 
three-berth cabin to himself, and "was soon pretty seasick." 
He had discarded his Franciscan habit before leaving Nas 
sau and assumed clerical garb, which somewhat confused 
the steward who came to his cabin to attend to him. "Catholic 
priest, Father?" he inquired. "No," answered Brother Je 
rome, "Episcopalian, but I hope to become a Catholic very 
soon." The steward remarked: "Now that s grand!" and from 
that moment did all he could for his seasick passenger, telling 
him about his home, his wife and children in New York, 
describing St. Patrick s Cathedral and many other churches 
in that city, and also the religious orders, saying that all 
would come easy in no time. "It was a cheering introduction 
at the start of my setting out to follow the Star," writes 
Brother Jerome, who adds that "the spontaneous brotherly 
welcome of this kindly Irish layman was far more sympathetic 
and encouraging than anything I got from any of the priests 
I first met with." 

In deference to Bishop Hornby, Brother Jerome, as soon 
as he arrived in New York, immediately called on Dr. 
Mortimer at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. But the two 
found little to talk about, and Brother Jerome soon departed 
to find a tailor s shop, where he removed his clerical collar 
and bought a gray ready-made suit. 

Wandering around New York, the self-unfrocked Anglican 
priest discovered the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on Co 
lumbus Avenue, between West Fifty-ninth and West Sixtieth 
streets. The front was decorated with a huge placard an 
nouncing, "Mission to Non-Catholics: Subject Tonight: The 
Everlasting Catholic Church." As he remarked in his diary: 



50 The Hermit of Cat Island 

"How the good God had got everything just nicely ready 
for me! Next morning I heard Mass in this big church of the 
Paulist Fathers, and what balm to my soul that was: the real 
thing this time without doubt. As soon as I had made up my 
mind to accept unconditionally all that the Holy Roman 
Church holds and teaches, I thought I would have trouble 
in dispossessing my scruples and inner feeling that I was al 
ready a validly ordained priest. But as I knelt in the great 
church, in such restful peace and absolute certainty, all these 
notions drifted away: I was just a layman and Anglican 
Orders were absolutely, without a reservation, null and void 
from the Catholic point of view." 

That same day Hawes boarded the train for Peekskill, 
and climbed the steep road that led up the hill to the then 
very simple buildings of the Convent of the Society of the 
Atonement. Here he met Mother Lurana and Father Paul 
James Francis. He recorded in after years that "their wel 
come seined rather stiff and formal, with no cheering 
warmth. There was an air of constraint in the atmosphere, 
not at all what I expected to find among Franciscans. I in 
quired after Mother Rosina and the other Sisters from Dais- 
ton, and, of course, was anxious to see them. I was informed 
that they were here no longer. Next day came another dis 
appointment. I was impatient to be received into the Church, 
but Father Paul told me I must wait and have at least two 
months instruction. The Archbishop of New York had for 
bidden him to receive any more converts straightway off. 
Since I had come to Graymoor, I made up my mind to 
stay on and see things through." 

It is not difficult to understand that the neophyte found 
Graymoor somewhat depressing, if only climatically. It was 
midwinter, and the contrast between the gray skies, the snow 
and those dark woods above the Hudson River, with the 
sunshine and bright colors of the Bahamas may have added 



"Roman Fever" 51 

to his sense of frustration. Forty years later he wrote: "The 
time passed wearily. The slow, drawn-out Offices in the 
chapel, with lots of extra-long prayers and devotions tacked 
on, bored me. The food was almost uneatable, the staple diet 
being stale salt herring and half-boiled potatoes, after Lent 
started. An Anglican nonceremonial use of incense would 
have been welcome to counteract the knock-me-down fishy 
smell. I have hated fish ever since. Usually it was bitterly cold 
in the dormitory cubicles. I used to get up two or three times 
a night to replenish the anthracite stove." 

Thirty-two years after that visit to Graymoor he still re 
membered "the horrible shock on the first Sunday there. The 
Mass was celebrated in the little wooden church of St. John s- 
in-the-Wilderness, originally an Episcopalian place of wor 
ship. Father Paul said the Mass in Latin, of course, and he was 
vested in an old Anglican chasuble of that arty* dull sage- 
green color with an art-russet Y shaped across. My heart sank. 
To make matters worse there were even the "correct* brass 
flower vases and candlesticks. Mother Lurana and the half-a- 
dozen Sisters sang everything in English (by permission of 
the Apostolic Delegate, Monsignor Falconio) , starting off 
with Lord have mercy on us/ but decently omitting their 
late former petition to incline our hearts to keep this lawl 
Then followed, Glory be to God on high/ and I believe/ 
all to the ill-fitting music of the Missa de Angelis. My heart 
sank. I had reveled in the consolation of hearing Mass at the 
Paulist Father s Church in New York City, but now I seemed 
to have dropped back into an environment of Anglicanism. 
I was hungry and thirsty for Catholic worship, but here I 
was with everything I thought I had done with forever. 

"After a couple of weeks along came a Visitor deputed 
by the Archbishop of New York a grand old Friar Minor, 
a great missionary amongst non-Catholics. In the dormitory 
his cubicle was next to mine. I could hear him not only groan- 



52 



The Hermit of Cat Island 



ing (because of his infirmities) but praying aloud nearly the 
whole night through. He altered a lot of things and told 
Father Paul that when he had sung Mass, the choir, i.e., the 
Sisters, must sing all their part in Latin, in spite of what the 
Apostolic Delegate had granted. I don t care/ roared the old 
friar, I tell you it s got to stop and right away. It s confusing 
and disedifying the laity." 

In spite of his distaste for the Graymoor services, John was 
not completely unhappy during his stay. For one thing, his 
friend Mother Rosina had entered the novitiate of the Fran 
ciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart at Peekskill, 
New York, and he often made the six-mile walk to see her. 
Another project that kept him occupied was the design for 
St. Francis* Chapel at Graymoor. Although certain modifi 
cations were made to the original plan by Ralph Adams Cram 
and Carlton Strong, essentially the design was John s. The 
fim stone was laid on March 17, 191 1, two days before John s 
reception into the Church, and the dedication took place on 
January 18, 1912. 




St. Francis Chapel, Graymoor 



"Roman Fever" 53 

About a month after his first visit Father Francis, whose 
views on liturgical practice John found so sympathetic, re 
turned to Graymoor and John made his confession to him. 

"For three days previously/* he wrote, "I had been full 
of scruples. I became more and more anxious and miserable. 
I felt sure that this general confession would take me at least 
an hour, but in a businesslike way the holy friar rushed me 
over all the hurdles in five minutes; and then at the act of 
contrition he just lifted my soul right up to God." 

Everything was ready for the final step, and on St. Joseph s 
Day, March 19, 1911, Father Paul administered conditional 
baptism to John Hawes and received him into the Roman 
Catholic Church. 



From the Rockies to the Beda [1911-1915] 



Now that the great decision was behind him John was faced 
with an uncertain future. Father Paul seems to have been dis 
appointed that his convert showed no desire to enter the 
Society of the Atonement, but John told him that if he chose 
to test his Franciscan vocation it would be with the Capuchins 
or the Friars Minor of the Leonine Union. Although in later 
years Hawes was willing to admit that his first impressions of 
Graymoor may have been prejudiced, he was by nature drawn 
toward the more baroque and rococo externals of Catholi 
cism, and it is understandable that he should have found the 
ethos of Graymoor uncongenial. 

Since returning to the Bahamas was out of the question, 
he took ship for England, dreading his first meeting with 
his parents. To his surprise his reception in the Catholic 
Church had not been the blow to them that he had expected. 
His father merely remarked, "I thought our Church is wide 
enough for anything and that you could have found all you 
wanted without leaving it." His mother expressed herself 
somewhat more warmly. "Dear John, I feel that you have 
done the right and straightforward thing. I never could feel 
happy while you took up with all those imitations of Cath- 

54 



From the Rockies to the Beda 55 

olicism in our Protestant Church, and now God s blessing 
be with you." 

Relieved and happy, John went off to South London for 
a long talk with the Father Guardian of the Capuchin Friary 
at Peckham. This wise friar explained to John that since his 
previous life had been so varied and independent, and since 
he was no longer so young, he would undoubtedly find the 
discipline of the novitiate too difficult. He advised him to 
become a secular priest. 

Immediately offers to Hawes were forthcoming. Bishop 
Amigo of the diocese of Southwark was eager to have him; 
Father Filmer suggested that he join the Guild of Ransom 
and devote himself to preaching for the conversion of Eng 
land; the resident priest of Bermuda offered to send him to 
the seminary at Halifax. John s old friend Charles Selby- 
Hall, who together with his wife had been received into the 
Catholic Church at almost the same time as had John, begged 
him to let them pay his expenses at the Beda College, Rome, 
pointing out that this would leave him free to make a final 
choice of a diocese later on. 

After the protracted nervous tension, mental struggle and 
external upheaval of a past life and relationships, many a new 
convert is apt to relax and sink down spiritually exhausted. 
When John delayed taking steps to receive "Roman Orders" 
some of his friends began to wonder if he had become a 
Roman Catholic layman in order to put off the burden of 
pastoral labors and to escape from spiritual responsibilities. 
But the truth was that he now wanted to look around and take 
his bearings. If there were real difficulties in the way of his 
becoming a Franciscan, the same reasons held good for not 
rushing into the other openings that presented themselves. 

"Nol I was too independent. I would go to work and earn 
enough to pay my own way," John wrote. "I decided to cross 



56 The Hermit of Cat Island 

the Atlantic again, this time to Canada. Right away I booked 
my passage on an emigrant ship, the Lake Ghamplain. I was 
one in a six-berth cabin without a porthole. We had to keep 
the electric light on all night because of the swarms of rats 
that ran over us. One man, putting on his boots, found a nest 
of seven baby rats in one of them. The food was even worse 
than what I had tried to eat at Graymoor. The stewards swept 
most of it off the plates and threw it overboard. Then off New 
foundland we ran into a field of huge icebergs, next into a 
dense fog, and for three days lay to with continuous dismal 
blowing of the foghorn. My only solace was to repeat again 
and again Ave Marts Stella. It was the same year the Titanic 
rushed to her doom, but the old emigrant ship was not out to 
make records." 

The ship berthed at Quebec, where John first made a pil 
grimage to the shrine of St. Anne de Beaupr<. Then he set 
out for Montreal and Toronto where he made a fruitless tour 
of architects offices, but failed to find a job. It was a slack 
time and no new buildings were being put up. He lodged in 
Salvation Army shelters, having no dollars to waste on hotels. 
Perhaps he would have better luck farther west, he thought, 
so he boarded an emigrant train which took him to Calgary. 
As he wandered through the streets of Calgary he noticed an 
advertisement: "CP.R. Crow s Nest Pass Construction Camp. 
Twelve teamsters wanted." As he knew something about 
horses, he went into the office of the Canadian Pacific, paid 
a couple of dollars over the counter, and signed on, receiving 
a railroad pass to MacLeod. He jolted into this small ranching 
town at midnight and dossed in a railroad shed. It was bit 
terly cold, knd he had only five cents left, so the following 
morning, after a cup of hot coffee, he set off to walk the twelve 
miles to Pitcher s Creek near where the camp was set up 
Before long the sun came out, and the prospective teamster 
began to feel very weary. At last he arrived at the busy con- 



From the Rockies to the Beda 57 

struction camp and presented himself to the boss, who told 
John that he could start the next day. The scenery, so he tells 
us, was "a glorious picture of pine and fir-covered hills, just at 
the foot of the snowcapped Rocky Mountains. The camp lay 
beside a rushing mountain river in a narrow ravine, over 
which a great trestle bridge, 140 feet high, was being built." 

The railroad company gave their employees splendid food 
and plenty of everything. The ex-Anglican Franciscan slept 
in a tent with three other men. It was very damp, and since 
the mattresses were on the ground he used to wake up so stiff 
with rheumatism he could hardly move. When the sun rose, 
the heat was scorching, but it was very cold at night, and there 
were frequent hail- or snow- storms. 

At first John worked with pick and shovel breaking up 
into small pieces rocks which had been dynamited to clear 
a way for tractors and horses. After a few days of this back- 
breaking labor he was thankful to be put on to driving a 
"dump wagon" and team of mules. Three days of one week 
he and another man were sent with their wagons to fetch 
lumber from the sawmills higher up in the mountains. "That 
was very jolly, driving through the pine forests," he recalls. 
"On the second day, owing to the other man s wagon sticking 
in a bad place, we had to sleep at the sawmills, a most delight 
ful lonely spot right in the woods. Of course the wagons had 
no springs and bumped you all to bits. This I should not 
have minded if only my mate had not sworn and blasphemed 
the moment anything went wrong with his wagon. I found 
all the men very friendly, but alas! their swearing and filthy 
talk made their company almost unendurable. It was hard 
work loading and unloading the wagons just the two of us 
to lift beams 8 by 8 feet square and 25 feet long! There were 
a dozen or so on each wagon, and sometimes we had to unload 
and reload a wagon in the track." 

If nothing else, the former clergyman was getting a look 



58 The Hermit of Gat Island 

at a different side of life, and gaining experience of common 
humanity which would be most valuable in the not very dis 
tant future. To get to Mass on Sunday he had to walk ten 
miles from the camp to Pincher s Creek. After the blasphemy 
and foulness of the camp, which "made it just like hell to be 
in, * it was a joy to see the spire of the church in the distance, 
and to hear the welcome and restful sound of its bell. 

"When the harmonium played and the singers in the west 
gallery sang Asperges me hyssopo et mundabor it brought 
the tears to my eyes it was like a bath after wading through 
the mire." John wrote, "How wonderful is the Catholic 
Church all over the wide world everywhere you find it, and 
just the same familiar worship; the same familiar images of 
the saints how homely and companionable they feel, es 
pecially when you happen to feel lost and lonely. When I was 
wandering about the streets of a big city such as Winnipeg, 
one couldn t help feeling utterly lonesome as the shades of 
evening came on, but to turn in to one of the ever-open 
Catholic churches and see the glimmering lamps and flicker 
ing tapers, also the silent kneeling worshipers, gave one a 
sense of home and companionship at once. It brought re 
newed courage and hope. There is a wonderful fellowship 
in the Catholic and Roman Church." 

It seems to have delighted John that all across Canada the 
priests wore their soutanes in the cities, villages and on the 
railroads. It pleased him also that so many of the priests had 
beards, presumably because he always seems to have associated 
a bearded face with St. Francis of Assisi. 

Work at the railroad construction camp closed down in 
the fall of 1911. For two or three weeks John added to his 
experiences by becoming a farm laborer: driving a wagon to 
fetch in hay cut on the prairies, cleaning out the stables daily, 
milking cows, and running a cream separator. Then, feeling 
that being so near the Rocky Mountains it would be a pity 



From the Rockies to the Beda 59 

to leave without seeing them a bit closer, he made a three 
days tour and walked right through the Crowsnest Pass as 
far as the border of British Columbia, and back again. He 
slept free of charge in the little log cabins, already snow- 
covered, which were spaced at regular intervals of about ten 
miles at the side of the railroad track. 

He made his way back east in charge of a van of cattle on 
a freight train, his chief duty being to let out the beasts and 
water them in the stockyards at the main depots. He traveled 
in the "caboose" with the guard, and often sat in a swivel 
armchair up in the lookout trunk on the roof, enjoying the 
glorious panorama of mountains, forests and lakes. 

At every hundred-mile section the train was shunted, and 
the caboose and guard changed for new ones. To avoid losing 
his cattle van, John got in and slept in the hayrack over the 
beasts heads. Among the cows was a large bull, which he 
had been instructed to leave tethered and to fetch its water. 
However, at Three Rivers this bull broke loose and stamped 
out with the rest. "It was plenty of trouble to catch him/* 
John said. "I remember one tense moment when I was left 
alone on the floor of the arena, like a matador in a Spanish 
bull ring; with the bull advancing on me with angry eyes, 
fed up with railroad travel! Now s your chance, seize him 
by the ring in his nose/ yelled the stockman on the fence. 
The bull lowered his nose to the ground just in time, and I 
hopped up the fence pretty smartly to join the other men/* 

At the end of his journey John received word that his 
mother was dangerously ill. He immediately booked passage 
for England and a few weeks later arrived in Surrey, where 
he stayed with his parents at Sutton. There the Catholic 
priest, finding that the new member of his congregation had 
practiced as an architect, asked him to make designs for the 
enlargement of the church, a project which was begun in 
the spring of 1912. 



60 The Hermit of Cat Island 

Then John was offered the very attractive post o tutor to 
the son of the United States ambassador to Mexico. He toyed 
with the idea for a time, stimulated by the thought of seeing 
Mexico, but just when he had almost made up his mind to 
accept the offer, Bishop Amigo turned up at Sutton to make 
a canonical visitation of the parish. When John told the 
Bishop of his new expectations, the latter replied, "Why 
waste time, my dear son, in going to Mexico and the end of 
the earth time you might be giving to God?" 

John interpreted this remark as another call to the priest 
hood, and once again Mr. and Mrs. Selby-Hall pleaded with 
him to accept financial help. Because of his wife, Charles 
Selby-Hall could not without great difficulties have become 
a priest himself, but the two of them wanted to give a priest 
to God, "Finally they broke down my stubborn pride and in 
dependence," wrote their friend. "May God bless and reward 
them." 

John went to talk with the Bishop of Southwark, who 
arranged for him to go to Rome and enter the Beda College 
without further delay. He arrived there toward the end of 
January 1912, and on Candlemas Day he accompanied the 
rector, Monsignor George, to the Vatican, and had an audi 
ence with Pope Pius X. On being informed that this student 
was a convert clergyman, the Pope laid his hand on his head, 
saying, "Bravo! bravo!" He gave John his special blessing 
and prayed that God would grant him all manner of consola 
tions. 

To a man of John Hawes s varied experiences it must have 
been far from easy to settle down to the life of a Roman stu 
dent at the age of thirty-six after the independent existence 
to which he had grown accustomed. But that he fit easily 
into the life at the Beda is amply shown by the testimony of 
one of his fellow students, Father Henry E. G. Rope, who 
spoke of him as modest, yet strong, self-possessed, companion- 



From the Rockies to the Beda 61 

able and charitable. Of his many-faceted personality and gifts 
Father Rope wrote, 

"I used to say that he had every talent save that of lan 
guages, in which his concords, genders and accents were apt 

to stumble Even here, however, his skill in sign language 

helped him out. He told me he had once been benighted in 
some north Italian countryside, and sought shelter in a cot 
tage. Having little Italian, he leaned against the doorpost 
and pretended to snore. A small child at once divined and 
interpreted to her parents his petition; their generous hospi 
tality was his. ..." 

Father Rope went on to detail some of John s pen-and-ink 
jokes. "Poking fun at my too uncritical zeal for medievalism, 
he drew me saying Office by the light of a glowworm, with a 
large box in the corner inscribed, Best Glowworms Keep 
Dry/ from shall we say Messrs. Urns and Boats. Another 
time, noting my fondness for the Byzantine Mass at the Greek 
College, he pictured the Beda ChapeP transformed to the 

Greek rite Yet another sketch showed me sleeping calmly 

on a bed protected by a rim of prickly pinnacles, and No 
more holy water required. . . . I need hardly add that his 
brave, cheerful and kindly presence greatly enhanced the 
happiness of our college life in that old Rome in which death 
speed and din were not yet deemed the summum bonum. . . . 

"Truly Franciscan was his ever-fresh joy in God s creation, 
his love of wild creatures, his keen sense of beauty in nature 
and true art. Like Chesterton, he kept through life the open 
heart of childhood. . . . " 1 

During his first year at the Beda John took a step which, 
considering his attachment to Franciscanism, it is surprising 
that he waited twenty months to put into action. He sought 
admission to the Third Order of St. Francis and on the feast 

i Henry E. G. Rope, "John C. Hawes: Father Jerome/ O.SJF.," The Beda 
Review, September, 1956, p. 11. 



62 The Hermit of Cat Island 

of the saint, October 4, 1912, he was clothed as a tertiary in 
the basilica of San Francesco at Assisi. The following year, 
cm December 8, "Brother John Francis Xavier Hawes" made 
his tertiary profession in the Capuchin church of St. Law 
rence of Brindisi, Rome. In spite of Anglican failures and 
Roman rejection, John Hawes had at last realized his strong 
est desire: to be formally united to the Franciscan Order. 

Several months after his clothing, in March 1913, word 
reached John of the corporate reception into the Catholic 
Church of Abbot Aelred Carlyle and twenty-two out of the 
thirty-three men who made up the Caldey Benedictine com 
munity. Two months later John went to meet his old friend 
and one-time religious superior when he arrived in Rome. 
"We went straight to St. Peter s," John wrote to Selby-Hall. 
"The Abbot of Maredsous said Mass at St. Peter s tomb; 
Aelred and I served him vested in cottas. Then we all had 
breakfast in the sacristy." What a joy it must have been for 
these two men who had traveled such a long road to Rome 
to meet in the heart of the Church of which they had so long 
considered themselves a part. Nevertheless, John with his 
customary incisiveness wrote later, "Abbot Aelred Carlyle 
and the Caldey Benedictines might have put off their sub 
mission to the Catholic Church if Abbess Scholastica Ewart 
had not helped to give them a good shove." 

This meeting between the two friends was brief, however, 
for in May 1913 John was off to Malta for a "wonderful ex 
perience" at the Eucharistic Congress. In an attempt to live 
up to his Franciscan ideals, he spent the night aboard the 
steamer propped up against a pile of baggage on deck. He 
mentioned that "the first-class saloon was full of American 
priests and bishops. The Reverend Clergy walked about on 
deck in all sorts of queer cloth caps some (American, of 
course) in English clericals, with opera glasses hung over 
their shoulders. One priest wore a gray suit." 



From the Rockies to the Beda 63 

Several pages of one of his letters were devoted to vivid 
descriptions of Malta and the wonderful Catholic atmos 
phere of the island, the whole of which "seemed to be given 
up to God and his Grace." He marveled that half the in 
habitants received Holy Communion daily, and that there 
was no drunkenness and apparently no sexual immorality. 

It is easy to understand how the Maltese ceremonial ap 
pealed to John s eclectic and baroque taste. He mentioned the 
brass and string orchestras in the west galleries of the larger 
churches; the credence tables arranged with silver flagons 
and plates just like the Communion table at Westminster 
Abbey on royal occasions; except that here there were miters 
in addition to twelve solid-silver statues. 

Most of the altar frontals, tabernacles and candlesticks 
were of solid beaten silver. The high altars all had a beautiful 
hanging canopy or baldachin. Never had John seen such im 
mense candles, very long and thick, soaring up, and all mi 
raculously straight! He was fascinated by the surplices worn by 
the priests, tight around the neck, with long, full sleeves 
folded back over the wrists. Even more exciting was the 
sight of all the canons of the cathedral at Citta Vecchia, and 
also at the Co-Cathedral of St. John, Valetta, wearing white 
miters at Mass. He could hardly believe his eyes when the 
deacon and sub-deacon walked in with miters on their heads, 
but he supposed they happened to be bishops. 

He told Mr. Selby-Hall that whenever the Viaticum was 
taken to the sick, whatever time of the day or night, the 
church bells rang and the Sacred Host was borne solemnly 
under a square canopy with a crowd of men and boys in 
front carrying candles and lanterns, with numbers of men 
and women following them. No matter where he went at any 
period of his life, John showed unusual powers of observa 
tion and a retentive memory for details. He reveled in every 
manifestation of beauty, and had no narrow prejudices. 



64 The Hermit of Cat Island 

From the moment John had decided to enter the Beda he 
began to dream of returning to the Bahamas as a Catholic 
priest. When he wrote to Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of 
New York, regarding this possibility, however, he was in 
formed that since the missions in the Bahamas were served 
by Benedictines of St. John s Abbey, Minnesota, there would 
be no place for a secular priest in these islands. In June 1912 
he wrote to Mr. Selby-Hall that a great weight had been taken 
off his mind, saying: "God s will is now quite clear as regards 
that course for me. Deo gratias. I am really very thankful. I 
had such weighty misgivings that it would have been a mis 
take to go back to the Bahamas. . . . Affection for the dear 
people of my late flock made me desire to return to them, 
but now I see that it is clearly not God s will. I know He 
will provide all that is best for them, and He will bring them 
or their children into His True Church in His own good 
time there is no hurry with God." 

John s next move was to write to the Bishop of Regina, 
since he knew from experience how great was the need of 
English-speaking priests in the west of Canada. He could 
easily form a mental picture of himself engaged in rough 
pioneer missionary work on the prairies of Saskatchewan, 
but the Bishop showed no eagerness to accept this convert 
Anglican clergyman for his diocese. 

It was not until shortly before his ordination to the priest 
hood that John discovered where his future apostolate would 
be. One day Monsignor George, rector of the Beda College, 
happened to meet Bishop Kelly of Geraldton, who talked to 
him of the spiritual needs of his vast diocese in Western 
Australia. On the next occasion when the rector came to join 
the students at recreation in their common room he spoke 
to them of this bishop. Turning to John, he said, "That 
would be the Bishop for you, Hawes; it would be worth your 
while to see him/ 



From the Rockies to the Beda 65 

John replied, "But what about Canada? The Bishop of 
Regina has not yet given me a definite answer." 

Monsignor George answered: "I could straighten that out 
later." 

So the following day John called on Bishop Kelly, and 
they went for a long walk together, and the student, now more 
familiar with Rome than was the Australian prelate, piloted 
him through the streets. He recorded that "to the multitude 
of beggars that accosted him for an alms, the Bishop never re 
fused one, but stopped and dived into his pockets and 
courteously handed the coin to the beggar as to Christ. He 
reminded me of the good bishop in Victor Hugo s Les Mise- 
rableSj but how he could ever carry so many centesimi in his 
pockets I don t know! And he even asked me to say a prayer 
for him! 

"That was the first of many daily long walks we had to 
gether. How Bishop Kelly loved Australia and it was not 
exactly the land of his birth because he had been born at sea. 
His diocese, so he explained to me, was the biggest, poorest 
and wildest on the southern continent. Well/ said the 
Bishop, if you want real apostolic missionary work I can 
offer you that, but not much more/ I replied that this sort 
of thing would suit me perfectly. Then he spoke of the 
cathedral he hoped to build in Geraldton. He wanted it 
round, with the seats converging on the high altar. Next day 
I brought along some sketches to show him. He was delighted, 
and remarked: Why, you understand at once exactly what I 
want, and when I consulted an architect at home, he drew 
me out a plan of an oblong building with five domes/ " 

John had received the first of the major orders, the sub- 
diaconate, when he had returned to England for the summer 
vacation, just before World War I broke out in August 1914. 
Had he not been definitely bound, he would have volunteered 
for service in any capacity, but he had to go back to Rome 



66 The Hermit of Cat Island 

and continue his studies. The rector excused him from doing 
the full course of philosophy, remarking, "You won t need 
much philosophy in the back blocks of Western Australia!" 
On Ember Saturday, February 27, 1915, John was ordained 
priest by the Cardinal Vicar in the Lateran Basilica. He wrote 
to Mr. and Mrs. Selby-Hall: "Well, my dear friends, I am a 
real priest at last. The service at St. John Lateran was most 
beautiful. There were a great many to be ordained, so the 
choir stalls were full. The Mass was sung unaccompanied, all 
the clerics joining in with a thundering volume of sound, 
when the organ played the grand old plain-chant tune for 
the Veni Creator. When my hands were being anointed and 
tied up, I felt I must weep, but I gulped down the sobs and 
managed not to show tears. We were fourteen from the Betfa, 
including those for minor orders. We were in church from 
7:15 A,M. to 12:45 P.M. I had a racking headache all the after 
noon, but felt quite happy I shall be very sorry to leave 

dear holy old Rome, and to bid a last lingering good-by to 
SL Peter s." 

Once again the urge to go tramping reasserted itself, so 
with another student the newly ordained priest set out from 
Rome to Montefiascone. From here the pair walked on to 
Bolsena and Orvieto, covering a distance of about fifty miles 
in each direction. Most of the time the weather was wet and 
stormy. A3 Father Hawes "waded nearly knee-deep through 
little streams crossing roads, getting lost among the hills, and 
following mule tracks," he must have recalled his first tramp 
through England. In a letter to Selby-Hall he told of how 
he and his companion sat around a huge open fireplace in a 
great beamed room at Bolsena, surrounded by peasants. A 
woman cooked a meal on the fire, and sheep dogs strolled 
about the room. John never failed to notice dogs of any 
breed. He was passionately devoted to them. 
In this same letter he gave details of "a grand concert at 



From the Rockies to the Beda 67 

the Beda on the Saturday night after the ordinations, for 
which Percy Gateley (another convert from the Anglican 
ministry, and also a Benedictine novice at Caldey) concocted 
one of his inimitable songs for the occasion, taking us all off. 
His verse on me was: 

Builds cathedrals at his ease, 
Loves, although they harbor fleas: 
Cats and aborigines: 
Can you tell me who is he? 

Shortly before John left Rome for England, the Reverend 
Vincent Eyre turned up on a holiday pilgrimage to shrines 
in Italy. "We visited Frascati, among other places/ Father 
Hawes related. "On the feast of St. Aloysius Mr. Eyre ac 
companied me early in the morning to that saint s church, 
where I said Mass at a side altar and my dear old vicar knelt 
with great devotion hearing my Mass. There was nothing 
clerical about his costume, only a dark suit with a turn-down 
collar. A day or two previously he was kneeling at his devo 
tions in one of the smaller Roman churches, when the sac 
ristan (struck by the priestly-looking face), and in spite of 
the lay clothes, approached him, saying that an altar was all 
ready for him if he would like to celebrate Mass. Mr. Eyre 
smiled, shook his head, and waved him away. Until his death 
he always longed to find himself in communion with the 
Holy See, but he was never granted the gift of faith/ 

Before he said farewell to Rome, Father Hawes obtained 
the necessary faculties from the Minister General of the 
Friars Minor Capuchin to establish congregations of the 
Franciscan Third Order in any parish of which he might 
find himself in charge. Then he set out for England, where 
he spent about three months with his parents. 

On the feast of the Guardian Angels, October 2, 1915, he 
embarked at Tilbury Docks on the long voyage to Australia. 



5. 



Gold-Fields Missionary [1915-1920] 



IN 1915, when Father John Hawes first arrived in Australia, 
the diocese of Geraldton of which he was to be a priest con 
sisted of a vast territory of about 314,500 square miles set 
squarely in the center of Western Australia. It had been 
created in 1898, and by the time Father Hawes began his 
work there it still boasted no more than twenty-eight churches 
served by ten secular and four regular priests. The Irish 
Presentation nuns had twenty-eight members divided among 
six houses, while the Dominican Sisters from New Zealand, 
who numbered twenty-four, conducted four convent schools 
within the diocesan boundaries. 

Bishop Kelly welcomed the new priest and turned over to 
him the so-called "parish" of Mount Magnet, which included 
the Yalgoo gold fields to the east of Geraldton. Father Hawes s 
district was 160 miles long and almost as wide. Within the 
parish lay four little towns, four churches (but only two pres 
byteries), and two convents on the gold fields. The country 
around Mount Magnet was given over to stock raising, with 
"stations" or ranches at which Mass was celebrated four 
times a year. Within Mount Magnet itself was a church 
and presbytery, but Father Hawes gave up the latter to be 
used as a convent for three Presentation nuns who came up 

68 



Gold-Fields Missionary 69 

from Geraldton to open a badly needed Catholic 
school. 

At Yalgoo, seventy miles southwest of Mount Magnet, he 
had another presbytery, which he described as "a very com 
fortable little bungalow with a veranda all around, a sitting 
room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom." Yalgoo church, so 
he stated, was certainly the prettiest little building of cor 
rugated iron he had ever seen, "white walls and red roof, with 
a stately altar and spacious sanctuary, as long as the nave, even 
an apse with leaded stained-glass windows." There were about 
250 inhabitants, nearly all of them Catholics. Camels and 
emus strolled along the street, and the camels emitted weird 
groans. From Yalgoo a team of nine camels would drag an 
enormous wagon, carrying about eight tons balks of timber, 
and other equipment for the gold mines to places more than 
fifty miles away. 

In one of his first letters to Selby-Hall, Father Hawes ex 
plained that it was far too hot to do anything but "flop about 
struggling to exist, with a temperature of 110 in the shade 
all the time." He had tried to write once but his hand stuck 
to the paper and it was too much exertion! Mosquitoes kept 
him awake most nights, but sometimes he managed to get 
sleep by saturating his pillow with oil of citronella. "I have 
hauled my bed out and slept under the stars," he wrote. "I 
have said Mass daily at six, but after breakfast it gets too hot 
to do anything but alternately drink out of the water bag and 
lie down in the bath. I feel too exhausted even to start saying 
my Office until after sunset. Of course it is possible to sit in a 
draught between doors and windows, but the burning wind 
dries you up! Then you see a willy-willy coming, and rush 
to close the windows. A willy-willy* is a whirlwind of red 
dust. You see a great pillar just like a waterspout sweeping 
down through the bush or up the road. If it passes through a 
house, everything is covered thick with a fine dust. These 



70 The Hermit of Cat Island 

moving pillars of dust are a familiar sight red against a 
dear blue sky. 

"But a willy-willy is nothing to a dust storm; in the latter 
the wind blows like a hurricane, and you can do nothing. The 
sky is darkened, verandas are torn off, and instead of the 
ordinary flocks of little green parrots, or gray and red cocka 
toos, the air is filled with hurtling sheets of corrugated iron, 
kerosene tins and empty rain-water tanks, and the little cor 
rugated-iron closets that adorn every back yard and decorate 
vacant spaces in the gold-fields towns. If one of these archi 
tectural gems, or an empty 5,000-gallon tank, happens to de 
scend on your head, you might have the misfortune to be 
consigned to the nearest hospital. If the local doctor is like 
the dentist well! The one-and-only remedy the dentists 
have here is to pull out all the teeth you ve got, so that you 
can t suffer from toothache any more, and they do it at one 
sitting. The Australian character is simple and straightfor 
ward and likes thoroughgoing remedies!" 

Even if he found the physical discomfort hard to endure, it 
was clear enough that Father Hawes enjoyed writing about 
his new and strange environment. He went on to describe the 
two mining towns of Cue and Day Dawn, which lay about 
fifty miles northeast of Mount Magnet. To reach them the 
railroad had to cross a great "lake," sixty miles long. It usu 
ally was filled with sand, salt and yellow clay, but once or 
twice a year, after thunderstorms, it became a real lake, filled 
with water. 

"Cue is the end of the earth, and Day Dawn even more at 
the back of beyond," he wrote. "My first day in Cue a man 
said to me, Well, Father, I wonder how you ll like it? I re 
member my first impressions of the place twenty-one years 
ago. I d come straight out from Ireland, and when I got here 
I thought this place was the abomination of desolation spoken 
of by the prophet what s-his-name. I d have gone straight back 



Gold-Fields Missionary 71 

home to dear old Ireland if I could have, but I d nothing to 
go with; but I like it all right now it s the people that 
count." 

At Cue, Father Hawes found a brick presbytery, a fairly 
good church "of the Gothic variety," a Dominican convent, 
and a large school. He describes the convent as "quite a pic 
turesque place of tropical aspect, clothed entirely in Domini 
can white: white walls in shade under the low-sweeping 
veranda covered with creepers and flowers, little palms in 
front and whitewashed roofs sparkling in the sunshine." 

Day Dawn was very different. Here his "heart sank" as the 
sun rose over the dreary, flat, treeless wilderness of baked red 
clay, red ironstone rocks and dried-up patches of brown grass, 
and over the "corrugated tabernacles" of the misnamed 
"town." It consisted of the usual rows of "hotels" and 
stores, with a town hall, fire station, and the Anglican and 
Methodist chapels roped together with the same telephone 
wire! Father Hawes noted that the Protestant churches gen 
erally snuggled up close together in the gold-fields towns, 
and were usually on the opposite side of the road from the 
Catholic chapel. There was one train a day, and this had "shot 
him out at Day Dawn at midnight." During the remaining 
hours of darkness millions of mosquitoes buzzed merrily 
around. They came from the town reservoir, which, as else 
where in Western Australia, was called the dam. 

The outstanding feature and pride of Day Dawn was the 
Great Fingall Dump, said to be 200 feet high. Father Hawes 
described it as "a mountain of powdered white quartz refuse 
from the gold battery. But the Great Fingall has fallen on 
evil days. It now employs only fifty men, where formerly 500 
worked." He went on to say: "One great consolation is that 
in the beastliest of places you will find some of the very nicest 
and dearest people. I like going to Day Dawn now because 
the Catholics there are so devout and so keen on their little 



72 The Hermit of Cat Island 

brick church, dedicated to St. Joseph. Their hospitality to a 
priest is overwhelming." 

It was both a surprise and a great consolation to the priest- 
architect to find that all his four churches were well supplied 
with good statues, fine Stations of the Cross, rich vestments 
and valuable altar vessels. Each possessed a splendid mon 
strance. The women kept the presbyteries or the sacristy 
lodgings clean and tidy. The only exception was at Cue, 
where nobody had even touched the presbytery since his 
predecessor departed. Father Hawes wrote, "When I arrived 
it was full of rubbish, dust, old papers, etc., so I turned to 
myself in the sweltering heat and spent two days clearing the 
place out. The movable furniture consisted mainly of empty 
beer bottles. I carted them out to the end of the garden, 
where small children came daily with little wheel carts to re 
move them, and thereby made their fortunes (getting some 
thing for the bottles at the hotels). The broken bottles left by 
the children have been consumed by stray goats!" 

The missionary realized that he would get accustomed to 
almost anything. He began to grow quite fond of the wild, 
desolate bush scenery. He saw new beauties and fascination in 
everything. Then the first rain for nearly five months fell, 
filling up the water tanks, freshening the feed of the stock 
and cattle, and cooling the air. Father Hawes now felt that 
there were far worse places in the world than Western Aus 
tralia in which to live. He was finding his feet. 

Yet he confessed that he found it impossible to work up any 
interest in mining, minerals, reefs and gold nuggets, which 
were the usual subjects of conversation among his scattered 
flock. On the other hand, because of his love for animals, 
Father Hawes got on well talking to the stockmen and pick 
ing up bush lore from them. There were a fair number of 
blacks about in the bush, "the queerest-looking people I ever 
saw in my life," so he described them. Very few of the 



Gold-Fields Missionary 73 

aborigines in his parish were even nominal Christians, un 
like those who had been converted by the Benedictine monks 
of New Norcia. Most of the hotelkeepers were Catholics of 




Australian Aborigine 

Irish origin who would never accept a penny from a priest for 
his board and lodging. Taken as a whole, Father Hawes found 
the Catholic families very kind and hospitable, and soon 
formed the highest opinion of them. 

In several letters he wrote of their loyalty to the Church 
and of their faithfulness in fulfilling their religious obliga 
tions. He mentioned a Scotsman and his wife at Cue who 
thought nothing of driving seventy miles from their cattle 
station for confession, Mass and Holy Communion. There 
was another man, Paddy Morrisy, often called "The Saint" or 
"Priest Morrisy," who never missed a Sunday when the priest 
came. He usually drove in fifteen to twenty miles with his 



74 The Hermit of Cat Island 

wife and children, but sometimes, when he failed to catch his 
hoise in the bush, he walked the fifteen or more miles by 
himself, rather than miss Mass. 

This story is all the more remarkable, because Cue claimed 
to be about the hottest place on the gold fields. There was a 
saying that when its inhabitants reached hell they would send 
back to Cue for their blankets! 

Father Hawes, as has been related, had ceased to wear his 
beloved brown Franciscan habit just before he left the 
Bahamas in 1911. Since his arrival in Western Australia he 
had adopted an equally picturesque costume a thin long 
coat of pale brownish silk, white wide-brimmed hat, and pale 
brown holland trousers. He explained in one letter that the 
color had nothing to do with Franciscanism, but had been 
chosen because of the dust. White clothes were impractical, 
since it was not long before they were covered with dingy 
red dust stains. 

Many of his early letters show that he saw everything and 
everybody with the eyes of an artist. Here is a typical para 
graph: "Yesterday morning I went for a walk out a few miles 
in the bush, and really enjoyed it, because the sun was com 
pletely hidden under a sky of gray rolling clouds. It was like 
dear old England (the sky, I mean). And the bush was full of 
beautiful color, but there s no color in the artistic sense 
when everything swelters all day long, scintillating under a 
fierce, pitiless, cloudless glare low green scrub from six to 
eight feet high, and a vast rolling waste without a tree." 

On Sundays the priest visited the different towns in rota 
tion, so that each had Mass every third Sunday and several 
weekday Masses. The main part of the Sunday collections was 
used to pay railroad fares. Father Hawes got an average of 
thirty shillings every week, and also a very occasional Mass 
stipend. Altar wine, candles and other necessities were paid 
for by the altar societies in each town. 



Gold-Fields Missionary 75 

A good idea of the busy life of a mission priest in Western 
Australia about forty years ago is given in the "program" 
drawn up by Father Hawes after he had got to know his 
enormous parish. This is how it reads: 

First Sunday 

Cue Confessions 6.30, Mass 7.30, motor to Day Dawn 8.15. 
Day Dawn Confessions 9 and Mass 9. Short sermon at both 
places. Catechism in the afternoon. Rosary, sermon and Bene 
diction 6.30 P.M. 

Monday Confessions 6.30, Mass 7, Rosary 7.30 P.M. 
Tuesday Leave Day Dawn by 3 A.M. train, arrive Mount 
Magnet 6 A.M. Confessions on arrival, Mass 7. During the week 
visits to Catholic families in cattle and sheep stations. Mass at 
Yowergalbie, Mumbinia, Edah, etc. Loan of horse to ride to 
these stations. 

Second Sunday 

Ride on horseback to Soogardie (five miles) for Mass at 
7.30 A.M. Back to Mount Magnet for Mass at 9.30, with sermon. 
Catechism 3 P.M. Rosary, sermon and Benediction 7.30 P.M. 
Spend three days visiting Catholic families, then by 6 A.M. train 
(seventy miles) to Yalgoo, arriving there by middle of the week. 

Third Sunday (an easy one!) 

Confessions and Communion from 7 A.M. Mass and sermon at 
9. Rosary, sermon and Benediction, 7.30 P.M. 
Train back to Mount Magnet about the middle of the week, 
and then on to Cue (120 miles), arriving there about midnight. 
Then the round again as before, only with some different 
stations. Several of these are mines fifty or more miles from the 
railway. The men send a motorcar to fetch the priest. 

One of the things that surprised Father Hawes was that he 
had to eat plenty of meat in the very hot weather. He wrote: 
"You get an awful sinking feeling in your middle if you don t 



76 The Hermit of Cat Island 

take food regularly." He got another surprise when the Aus 
tralian climate in the month of May moved from its extreme 
of heat to bitter winds morning and evening and brilliant 
sunshine alternating with rain. Having been nearly roasted 
alive, even in the shade, he never expected that he would 
welcome a fire to sit beside in the evening. 

It was a surprise to him, too, that the people looked so 
healthy, and his Franciscan spirit reveled in the absence of 
any class distinctions. He said in one of his earlier letters: 
"The men are quiet but very sociable, and all is free and 
easy, yet there are real good manners and a rough sort of 
courtesy. When drunk, the men are usually quiet, and oddly 
enough the drunker they are, the more silent they be 
come!" 

There were so many little things that amused him. The 
local Methodist minister was clean-shaven, wore a Roman 
collar, a "Trilby hat," and dressed entirely in black even in 
the hottest weather. The Church of England clergyman at 
Mount Magnet always wore a clean, stiff starched white suit 
and a white helmet. Father Hawes formed the rather harsh 
impression that most of the Anglican missionaries had little 
to do beyond collecting their Christmas and Easter dues from 
the Freemasons, but perhaps his observations were colored 
by the antipathy which he had developed since his conversion 
toward everything connected with Anglicanism. Somebody at 
Mount Magnet had told him that on a Sunday the parson 
often rang the bell and went into church where he read the 
service alone. This certainly has an apocryphal ring! In one 
of those earlier letters he judges that "where the Anglicans 
cannot have attractive services with an organ and a good 
choir (as in Geraldton), the C of E churches don t seem to 
draw out 1 in these back places, but Catholics need none of 
these things. I sometimes think how intensely dull our serv 
ices are from the natural* point of view: no hymns, no music 



Gold-Fields Missionary 77 

unless perhaps what is worse than none at all, a couple of 
devoted but earsplitting squalling prima donnas painfully 
torturing the Kyries and the Gloria or the Tantum Ergo, to 
some soulless operatic twiddling. But our people come to 
pray, to offer sacrifice to God, and to be eased of their sins. 
The supernatural is really evident." 

Father Hawes thought it odd that, considering the abun 
dance of beautiful wild flowers in Western Australia, most of 
the little Catholic churches generally had their altars adorned 
in a homely style with "large brilliant and varied concoctions 
of paper and rag, springing out of assorted china vases be 
tween the long, topply judases." This exhibition of chiefly 
artificial flowers brought back to him the "delicious aroma of 
Italy and the Eternal City. . . . Dear old paper flowers, you 
waft me away in spirit, as I say Mass, from these torrid wastes 
to those altars amid the soft blue mountains of Umbria and 
Tuscany, to the time-worn sanctuaries of Assisi, Loreto, and 
San Gemignano." 

There was definitely no Teutonic stiffness in the churches. 
Big, sturdy-looking lads of fifteen or sixteen were quite happy 
to go on wearing the same garments they had worn when they 
were eight, and first "on the altar," to use the favorite Irish 
expression. Scarlet cassocks, shrunk to the length of an 
episcopal mantelletta, showed brawny bare knees and stout 
calves. The children were charmingly unsophisticated. Father 
Hawes tells the story of a little boy of eight who had made his 
first confession most thoroughly and intelligently. He asked 
the boy: 

"And there s nothing more, my child?" 

"Please, Father, you ll come in to breakfast after Mass? 
I m sure Mother would ask you to ..." 

"Never mind about that now, we can think about that 
after Mass. Say three Hail Marys for your penance, and make 
a ..." 



78 The Hermit of Cat Island 

"And we still got those pictures you drewed us last 
time . . ." 

"Yes: now make a good act of contrition, while I give you 
absolution." 

It was remarkable how this convert Englishman got on with 
his mainly Irish flock. How much he loved them is evident 
from many of his letters. His first St. Patrick s Day at Yalgoo 
was described in great detail. It started off with a full church 
at seven-o clock Mass, with the altar a blaze of candles, fol 
lowed by a lively hymn to St. Patrick. In spite of not having a 
drop of Irish blood in his veins, so far as he knew, Father 
Hawes proudly displayed all day an elegant harp of green 
ribbon with a sprig of shamrock thereon, and a bit of sham 
rock sewed into his coat. After a strenuous afternoon in grill 
ing heat, the kindly Presentation nuns brought him a festal 
meal scones and cakes and grapes, black and white, and a 
watermelon with chunks of ice to keep it cool. The day ended 
with a grand concert and public dance. Nineteen couples 
came all the way from Mount Magnet, and danced all night, 
returning home by the 6 A.M. train. 

The Presentation nuns are often mentioned in Father 
Hawes s letters, and described as "grand women/ All were 
Irish "out from the old country." Their pastor added: "It s 
a wonderful thing, refined and educated women, leaving 
comfortable homes, and then giving up even the ordinary 
spiritual consolations of the cloister to live out in these 
dreary back-block places where they are often a fortnight 
without Mass, but with the consolation of having Our Lord 
in the tabernacle with them. They do a power of good, and 
the Protestants recognize it, in that so many of them withdraw 
their children from the state schools and send them to the 
nearest convent school, knowing that not only is the standard 
of secular education higher, with music, painting, dancing, 



Gold-Fields Missionary 79 

etc. taught, but that the children learn better manners at the 
Catholic schools, including obedience and courtesy." 

After a year or two Father Hawes made friends with all 
sorts of curious characters, among whom was a former mayor 
who had returned to the bush, where he cut sandalwood, sank 
wells, and drank a lot but not water from his wells! The first 
time they met the former mayor resembled a dirty laborer; 
the following night he was a great swell in evening dress, act 
ing as master of ceremonies at a charity dance. Another good 
friend to the missionary priest and the nuns was Jim Bur- 
goine, the publican at Boogardie a huge, burly fellow ever 
so hearty and good-natured. He and the priest shared a com 
mon love of horses. The two of them would sit around for 
hours, drinking cold beer and talking of horses, but it was 
not so easy to get Jim to Mass. If he did turn up, it was gen 
erally after the priest had taken the ablutions or when he 
was about to give the final blessing, 

It was the publican of Boogardie who lent Father Hawes a 
fine, big, powerful stock horse for his first long ride around 
some of the outlying mines and sheep stations. On this trip 
he covered more than 240 miles through the bush, and had 
some hair-raising adventures. We can picture him with his 
altar stone and vestments, a thin pajama suit, sponge bag, 
razor, a breviary and missal, all done up in a roll of brown 
canvas strapped in front of the saddle. A blanket was under 
the saddle, a flask of water and a billycan on one side, and a 
small bag with sundry things in it on the other. He would 
take off his coat and Roman collar and tie them on top of the 
canvas roll so they would be handy if needed, and ride in his 
shirt sleeves and khaki trousers, with a white pith helmet 
perched on his head. 

Father Hawes rode through the lonely bush all the first 
day, and it was not until nearly 9 P.M. that he found his way 



80 The Hermit of Cat Island 

to a house, where a kindly Irish family gave him a bed for the 
night and a grand meal of hot tea, creamy milk, eggs, scones 
and rich cake. The following day he had the misfortune to 
lose the one absolutely essential item in his gear, the canvas 
water bag, and consequently suffered from thirst. Once again 
it was an Irishman and his wife who put him up for the night. 
On Candlemas Day Father Hawes celebrated Mass at one of 
his remote stations, where he blessed both holy water and 
candles for a dozen faithful Catholics. He was rewarded by an 
offering of five pounds, a welcome surprise. 

After a Sunday at Yalgoo, Father Hawes set out again, 
taking with him some flour, sugar and tea in his saddlebag, 
and making a start by sunrise. He rode all day, except for a 
halt between noon and four to escape the terrific heat. Sun 
set found him at a lonely wild spot with a well, called the 
Shadow of Death, forty-one miles from Yalgoo. There had 
been a cattle station there once, but now he saw nothing but 
the ruins of roofless buildings, composed of sun-dried bricks. 
The ruins lay in a valley filled with eucalyptus trees whose 
boughs were dry and withered. A tall erection within some 
broken fencing looked like a gallows but had probably been 
a hoist for branding cattle, for the Shadow of Death had once 
been quite a big station. 

Father Hawes writes: "I had to work hard hauling up a 
windlass to bring the water bucket up from the well a 
heavy iron bucket. The well was about sixty feet deep, with 
horrid brackish water. My horse had a drink and I filled my 
water bag, after which I mad up to a little hill behind the 
ruined houses. Here I unsaddled the horse and turned him 
loose with hobbles on his forelegs and a large brass bell 
round his neck. Then I gathered some sticks, any amount of 
dry withered branches lying around, and in a few minutes I 
had a blazing fire. I mixed up some flour and water on a bit 
of newspaper, and made a Johnny Cake or Damper, as they 



Gold-Fields Missionary 81 

call it here a flat cake of bread which I laid on the embers 
and raked more ashes over it, and boiled my billy for tea. It 
tasted very salty from the water of the Shadow well. 

"It was quite dark by then, and a clear starlight sky over 
my head. I said the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary instead of 
the Breviary, and then curled up in a blanket and lay down 
near the fire. ... In the morning at dawn I made tea and 
finished last night s Damper. 7 Then I went to look for the 
horse, heard his bell tinkling not very far off, down by the 
well. So I made my way there with my sponge bag, wound up 
a bucket of water, and had a refreshing bath didn t trouble 
about a towel, but got wet into my shirt and trousers, which 
soon dried." 

Among the many people Father Hawes met on this long, 
adventurous ride was at least one Protestant family, who mis 
took him for a policeman because of his big horse, khaki 
clothes and white helmet. Once they were told that he was a 
priest they could not do enough for him, saying that they had 
never been visited by their own Church of England clergy 
man. When he left them he rode on across great, flat plains 
and across the beds of dried-up lakes, where big kangaroos 
bounded about among scrubby bushes. He passed mining 
works with their skeleton towers, and many abandoned build 
ings, their iron roofs stripped off and hanging, flapping in the 
wind, like torn brown paper. On and on, mile after mile, 
until he reached a lonely whitewashed iron house, which 
turned out to be a hotel, run by two Irish Catholic brothers, 
each with his own family, and an old grandmother, only a 
year out from Ireland. Needless to say they welcomed the 
priest with open arms. As Mrs. Harvey, the grandmother, 
prepared supper she said, "Oh, Father, this is a wild, lone 
place, a wild, bad place, and they don t think of God at all, 
at all, but all their thoughts is down under the ground after 
the gold. God bless and save your Reverence." 



82 The Hermit of Cat Island 

"Poor old thing," commented Father Hawes, "after going 
daily to Mass all her life, no wonder she found Western 
Australia a godless country/ " She said to him: "I pray the 
Lord He ll just spare me to get back to the old country, so 
that I may not die in this terrible place and be buried over 
the hill yonder. Oh, Father, I couldn t rest there!" 

Still, it was an intense joy for the poor old lady to be able 
to assist at Mass the following morning, when quite a large 
congregation assembled, most of whom made their confes 
sions and went to Communion. 

After another long ride in intense heat, passing Lake 
Monger glistening silver-white in the sun from the salt caked 
on the surface of its dry bottom, the missionary landed at a 
mining camp. Here the men were most friendly, and Father 
Hawes admits that it was not easy for him to refuse the rounds 
of drinks pressed on him that first evening. There were more 
mining settlements to be visited, so he changed over from his 
horse to a shaky old motorcar with a trailer, which he found 
much more uncomfortable, and which nearly bumped him to 
bits. 

Here was a different hilly sort of landscape, a welcome 
change from the deadly monotony of the flat plains. The far 
distances took on a wonderful blue, so that Father Hawes 
could fancy to himself that the rolling country was the sea, 
and almost began to look out for white sails. The journey was 
worth while because he discovered fifteen Catholics, some of 
them Italians, who told him that this was the first visit paid 
by any minister of religion since they had arrived there eight 
een months before. 

Another drive in the ramshackle automobile took him to a 
hotel at Payne s Field, where the following morning enough 
Catholics had been "roped in" to make it worth while to 
celebrate Mass in the hotel eating room. Father Hawes 
recorded that "the tables were cleared out, except one that 



Gold-Fields Missionary 83 

stood against the east wall, under a large colored almanac 
print of a rosy-faced girl fondling a Newfoundland dog. I 
could not help feeling that it lacked the devotional tone of a 
Raphael or a Fra Angelico, so I moved the table to the middle 
of the side wall where there was nothing but whitewash (and 
flies) above the crucifix. My congregation was entirely of the 
sterner sex, but at the Offertory I became aware of a flowered 
hat stealing in, which knelt down quietly in a far corner it 
was the Irish kitchenmaid with red hair whom I had over 
heard remark the evening before that she had done with all 
that sort of thing* since she came to this hotel! There were no 
Communions at Payne s Field. For most of the men it was 
grace enough to get them to Mass- it would have been too 
much to expect this tough crowd to go to confession and 
Communion. At the ablutions I gave a five-minute sermon, 
as simple as I could make it, just on holding on to the Faith 
in these back blocks, and the duty of remembering that they 
were Catholics and the only witnesses of God out here. I said 
that man was something more than a brute beast, and begged 
the men to remember what they d learned long ago at their 
mothers knees, and how in the past they had often sung 
Taith of Our Fathers ; they must try to keep this Faith alive 
here, if nothing else. An offering of a couple of pound notes 
was presented with many apologies that it was not more. 
Tou ve come at a bad time, Father, if you d come a fortnight 
later, when the government crushings is on, we might have 
given you far more/ 

"The red-haired girl got me tea and toast, and all the rest 
of the morning till dinner I heard her humming, singing and 
whistling Taith of Our Fathers over her pots and pans. Per 
haps my .sermon had done some good? Beer and greyhounds 
seemed to be the only Sunday occupation for the rest of the 
inhabitants that Sunday." 

After riding four more days, camping out in the bush on 



84 The Hermit of Cat Island 

two nights, and suffering from hunger and especially from 
thim because his water bag had sprung a leak and none of the 
water in the few wells was drinkable, Father Hawes finally got 
back to Mount Magnet. He realized that the only way to keep 
in touch with his widely-scattered families was to buy a horse, 
so that he could make more of the apostolic journeys when 
ever he could spare the time. He had saved twelve pounds 
given him by the bishop the previous Christmas, and re 
turned from this first long ride with thirteen pounds in his 
pocket. Jim Burgoine promised to look out for a good horse, 
and not long after this Father Hawes took his savings and 
bought the animal Jim selected. 

He was amused to hear that his first tour of the distant 
stations had provoked much heart-burning and criticism in 
the Anglican fold. Some of the Church of England "squat 
ters" were reported to have said, "Here s the Roman Catholic 
priest not been here two months yet, and he s got out to 
these back-block places, and our clergyman has been here 
two years and never visited us yet." The result of such grum 
blings was that the local parson paid a visit to one of the fairly 
distant stations, a fortnight after his Catholic opposite num 
ber had been there. This clergyman asked his congregation to 
present him with a motor bike, but they said times were too 
bad for such expense, and told him to make do with his horse 
and trap. 

One of the results of Father Hawes s bush tour was a re 
curring worry kbout the many lonely Catholics of whose ex 
istence he heard from time to time. He often wished that he 
had several curates to help him, but this was a hopeless dream. 
On the whole, Father Hawes seemed happy enough, but very 
often he complained of the lack of peace and solitude. Was it 
that he had begun to feel already that his true vocation was 
that of a hermit? 



Gold-Fields Missionary 85 

In one of his letters he mentions that he longed for peace 
to say his Office and prepare his sermon, but little girls from 
the adjacent convent school came into the sacristy to practice 
on the piano, while a nun played the Tantum Ergo on the 
harmonium in the church! He would shut his door and win 
dow, only to be suffocated by the heat. Then he would take 
his chair out onto the shady veranda, but he was still dis 
tracted by the mixture of music. He would open his Breviary 
only to have the flies crawl over his face and hands. If he 
moved his chair to a place where he was in the path of a breeze 
blowing round the church, flap, flap, flap went the leaves of 
the Office book. The flies, borne on the wind, came back to 
torment him, adding their buzzing to the droning harmony of 
piano and harmonium. Then, driven to desperation back into 
the stifling room, but the music and the heat proved too much 
with the door shut, so out into the open air again. Where was 
he now Terce or None? He just couldn t remember where 
he had got to with the Word of God. 

"The tum-tum-tum-diddle-diddle ending of that waltz was 
repeated for the twentieth time," the priest wrote. "I cursed 
little Phyllis O Brien God bless the child! If my guardian 
angel finds two of my Little Hours are missing, he must blame 
Phyllis. Here goes for Vespers. Oh, drat those flies! No 
sermon begun. Return from supper at the hotel, and hur 
riedly hash up my Yalgoo sermon on charity and forgiveness 
of enemies especially Phyllis O Brien, as she is a dear child." 

Throughout his life John Hawes had always loved taking 
long walks. One of his greatest deprivations in Western Aus 
tralia was that there was nowhere to go for a walk, and no 
where to sit and admire a distant view. He mentioned this 
in several letters, but remarked in one of them: "Don t think 
I m really complaining. I think the relation of our petty an 
noyance and inconveniences is a source of amusement, and 



86 The Hermit of Cat Island 

the very relation of them makes one see how trivial they 
really are, and how absurd one is to fume and fret all the 
time over such trifles. Laugh at them and they are nothing." 

If only he had kept a diary during those first five years in 
Western Australia! All we know from the scanty material 
available is that Father Hawes lived his busy life from day to 
day, brushing aside trivial irritations and discomforts, en 
during hardship and privations which would have been too 
much for many priests. His people were generous and he 
never suffered from poverty no matter what he had to put 
up with in other ways. He loved his apostolic work, nor was 
there a dearth of artistic endeavor in this desolate country. 

Bishop Kelly, having discovered that his English missionary 
was a brilliant architect as well as a devoted apostle, put him 
to work designing one church after another. These churches, 
which are his lasting memorial in Australia, will be described 
later, but needless to say Father Hawes, who loved "making 
things," put his loving care not only into the designs but into 
the practical building operations as well. 

These first years in most respects were a fruitful period. 
They were also, from a physical standpoint, heavily taxing, 
and in 1920 Bishop Kelly told Father Hawes that he had 
earned a holiday. It was decided that the missionary should 
pay a visit to England, so with a light heart he began to make 
plans for the long journey. 



6. 



Bush Architect [1920-193?] 



Ax the thought of the journey ahead and at the feet that 
money was so readily available for it, Father Hawes began to 
have misgivings about his lack of Franciscan fervor which 
seemed almost to have dried up in the torrid heat of the 
Yalgoo gold fields. "What had become of my Franciscan 
ideals?" he wrote in his memoirs. "A medal of Our Lady of 
Mount Carmel carried in the pocket had long been substi 
tuted for her scapular, but the Franciscan tertiary cord and 
scapular were too much bother to wear when you lived most 
of the day in your shirt sleeves!" Nevertheless, the Little 
Poor Man had not forgotten his disciple and eventually was 
to recall him to his primitive ideals. 

As a matter of fact, he began to put them into practice as 
soon as he set off across the Pacific. The only passage he was 
able to get was on a troopship which, after a call at a New 
Zealand port, sailed for Panama where Father Hawes was 
transferred to a trading schooner on which he slept on deck, 
his pillow a coil of rope. The schooner landed him at Port 
Lim6n in Costa Rica and there he spent three days absorbed 
in plans for a new sanctuary, transepts and a side altar for the 
local Catholic church. Then he boarded a "banana boat" 
bound for Havana from where, after feasting on the beauties 

87 



88 The Hermit of Cat Island 

of the many baroque and rococo churches in Cuba, he went 
to Matanzas and thence to Nassau, once more aboard a 
schooner. 

The Bahamas, as Father Hawes knew, from his previous 
work there, had been Protestant in religion since their settle 
ment by England in the seventeenth century. There is no 
evidence of their being visited by a Catholic priest before 
1845, and it was not until 1885 that the cornerstone of the 
first Catholic church in the Bahamas was laid and the first 
resident priest appointed. At that time the- islands formed a 
remote part of the archdiocese of New York and, in 1891 at 
the request of Archbishop Corrigan, the Benedictines of St. 
John s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, sent two monk-mis 
sionaries, one of them Father Chrysostom Schreiner, to Nas 
sau. When these Benedictines took over the mission they 
found only about fifty practicing Catholics, children in 
cluded. Father Chrysostom, having been almost miraculously 
saved from death when he and another priest were caught 
aboard their schooner between Cat Island and Conception Is 
land during a terrible hurricane, made a vow that he would 
remain in the Bahamas as a missionary for the rest of his 
days. 

From this time the advance of the Church in the islands 
was rapid. 1 As more and more churches were built and many 
natives were converted, the need for more priests became 
acute. When Father Hawes arrived, Father Chrysostom and 
the few monks who were working with him begged the mis 
sionary to stay and take up his labors in the Bahamas. Father 
Chrysostom begged him to take over San Salvador, that is, 
Wading Island, where Columbus had first landed in the 
New World, and there design and help build a church as a 
memorial to Columbus which the Knights of Columbus in 

< CoUe S eville Minnesota, 



Bush Architect 89 

the United States had promised to finance. Although his 
earlier attachment to the Bahamas still persisted, Father 
Hawes regretfully explained that his Australian commitment 
would prevent him from contemplating any such thing, but 
he was careful to add that he hoped that things would work 
out so that he might return later. 

Leaving them with this vague reassurance, he went on to 
New York to be the guest of the Collegeville Benedictines 
at St. Anselm s Monastery in the Bronx, where Father Ber 
nard Kevenhoerster was the prior. Father Hawes took ad 
vantage of his stay to travel up to Peekskill to renew his 
friendship with Mother Rosina, now called Sister Mary 
Magdalene, and with Sister Mary Claudia, another of his 
former disciples. At last he began the final lap of his journey 
and landed in England, where he spent six months with his 
parents in Surrey. 

One evening he was invited to supper at the convent of 
the Daughters of the Cross at nearby Carshalton, to meet 
with Bishop Amigo of Southwark and Abbot Bergh, O.S.B., 
of Ramsgate. The former recalled how, as a young priest, 
he was in charge of a parish in Texas, so big that it took the 
mail-train express three hours to cross it. "Well, my Lord," 
replied Father Hawes, "I can board the mail train at six 
o clock in the morning at the northeast end of my parish, 
travel in it the whole day, and alight at the last little town 
ship in the southwest corner at 9 P.M. My parish covers 
42,000 square miles, but of course most of it is inhabited only 
by kangaroos and emus. The Diocese of Geraldton covers 
roughly 300,000 square miles, but in the more remote parts 
some of the aborigines are still so wild as to be ready to spear 
a stranger and cook him for dinner!" 

Father Hawes had hoped to meet Abbot Aelred Carlyle 
before returning to Australia, but was told that he had gone 
off to South America in a last desperate attempt to raise 



90 The Hermit of Cat Island 

money to pay the debts pf his community* But before his 
holiday was over and he had to return to Geraldton, Father 
Hawes did manage to visit Father Rope, who was then in 
charge of a remote parish on the border of Wales. 

Toward the end of 1920 Father Hawes returned to Western 
Australia, and shortly afterward Bishop Kelly died, a sad 
loss to the missionary who had been devoted to the Bishop. 
Then Archbishop Clune approached the priest-architect to 
prepare plans for a new cathedral at Perth. Father Hawes 
put much work into the designs, but eventually the scheme 
fell through, so he was left free to devote himself uninter 
ruptedly to the building of a church at Mullewa, a small 
town on the railroad, about fifty miles inland from Gerald- 
ton. 

He records: "Day after day, toiling with sore and cracked 
hands, tormented with flies and the scorching summer sun, 
and clothed in lime-covered rags, all my interests are now 
concentrated on this my latest church. Some of the piers and 
walls are now ten feet above ground. God only knows how 
I ve toiled and sweated over it, all through the sweltering 
days of summer. Often I have worked alone; mixing the 
mortar, fetching my stones, often aching with lumbago and 
hardly able to lift a stone without groaning. Often I ve had 
to knock off and go indoors to lie down on my bed for a 
quarter of an hour and then drag myself out to work again 
to face the sun and the flies. But once I get going the en 
thusiasm and intoxication of the work carry me on. I be 
come too tired out to eat anything except with a great effort. 
People remark that I am growing thin. 

"Thanks be to God, I never realized when I began (al 
though even then I knew I was a fool to start on it) what I 
was undertaking, or the magnitude and complications of the 
task, otherwise I would never have had the courage to face 
it. Not to speak of the financial anxiety and business worries, 



Bush Architect 91 

or the stirring up of people to work on the quarry and carting 
stones and sand. There has also been the selfish apathy and 
indifference of so many Catholics. However, it s a reward to 
contemplate some portion of a wall a little higher every day. 

"It s a great and noble labor, this piling of one stone upon 
another, semi-sacramental, one of the four primal occupa 
tions of man that of the mason, the carpenter, the plowman, 
the fisherman. As a laborer I think of all those who have 
been at it long before: the Egyptians, the Greeks, the 
Romans, the Saxons, the Normans, and those giants of the 
thirteenth century. It s strange to think that when the Saxons 
were building their little Roman churches, England was all 
bush then, like Australia*" 

Father Hawes felt he was getting back again to his Fran 
ciscan ideals. Labor gave him a real friendship with the work- 
ingman. He was earning his daily bread; not only by his 
spiritual labor in his parish, but by the labor of his own 
hands. Moreover, each day was consecrated for him by begin 
ning it, standing at the altar to offer the Holy Sacrifice of 
the Mass. 

After the church at Mullewa was completed, visitors often 
annoyed the priest-architect. They gaped at him, saying: 
"And did you really build all that yourself, Father? Well, you 
will have a memorial behind you. You must feel a very 
proud man doesn t it distract you when you re saying Mass 
to look around and think you raised all that?" 

But Father Hawes felt very differently and, to quote his 
own words, "I thought to myself, God knows there s enough 
pride in my poor fallen sin-stained soul pride and self- 
seeking in all I do. Yet as to pride of that sort over the fin 
ished building, I don t think I ever had it. Our Lady s church 
at Mullewa has always seemed to have an impersonal relation 
ship to myself. Not as though I had designed it, because I 
prayed to St. Joseph every morning and commended the work 



92 The Hermit of Cat Island 

to him. I was just his laborer. I always said that beautiful 
prayer of Pius X to St. Joseph. You can see his statue in the 
church now, with a ten-foot rule in his hand. 

"I was continually altering the design and changing things 
as I went along. The building of it was a great adventure and 
a sort of pilgrimage: it was not something made but a thing 
that had grown. All I did was to discover it. And so, when at 
long last I stood before the high altar under the dome, it 
never occurred to me that I myself had built it those rough, 
uneven gray walls but that I seemed to be standing in some 
old church built by other hands in former times," 2 

From 1923 to 1926 Father Hawes s very infrequent letters 
to Mr. Selby-Hall were mainly concerned with the trials 
he had to endure very good for his soul, no doubt from 
the presence of a new bishop, whose views on art and arch 
itecture were very different from those of his predecessor. 
To be honest, it is not in the least surprising that Bishop 
Ryan, who came from a wealthy suburban parish of Mel 
bourne, felt that this Englishman was a dangerous eccentric, 
if not quite mad. The astonishing little church at Mullewa, 
the like of which Bishop Ryan had never seen in his life, was 
enough to confirm his worst suspicions. No sane man could 
have designed such a fantastic building, only a lunatic! 

It was an even worse blow to Father Hawes that Bishop 
Ryan maintained that everything was wrong with the new 
cathedral at Geraldton, which was still unfinished, and in 
which he took great pride, because he had managed to carry 
out in stone the dreams of the late Bishop Kelly. The new 
ordinary denounced the cathedral s peculiarities, as well as 
those of the new churches at Mullewa and Yalgoo. 

"Artl" he exclaimed one day. "It s just wasted on these 
people. What do they understand of it?" Father Hawes wrote 

2 For a detailed description of this church, which sums up all its architect s 
eclectic ideals and proves his unique knowledge of historic styles, see p. 222 ff. 



Bush Architect 93 

in one letter about this date: "I fear my good Bishop thinks 
I m a cracked idiot wasting my time, and that I would be far 
better employed in book study or preparing sermons. But 
he is very generous and gives away his money everywhere to 
this or that object of charity." 

However, there were some consolations. The Sisters at Yal- 
goo reported that two old bushmen came to have a look at 
the convent chapel, and that they were quite enraptured over 
it, saying they d never seen anything like it, or so pretty, since 
they left "the old country/ and that it reminded them of 
the chapels at home. This cheering news delighted the priest- 
architect. He felt that, after all, his new Bishop might not 
be infallible in matters of art! 

Alas! It was not only Father Hawes s architecture that an 
noyed Bishop Ryan, but also his liturgical peculiarities. For 
instance, what did he mean by having the Asperges before the 
Missa Cantata on Sunday mornings? No other priest in the 
diocese did so. The Bishop went so far as to maintain that 
the Asperges was a complete novelty in Australia. He said 
that he had never heard of it, except in cathedrals, and he lost 
no time in abolishing it at Geraldton. Father Hawes pleaded 
that the rite was quite common in most village churches on 
the continent of Europe, even in Catholic churches in Eng 
land, but this did not convince Bishop Ryan. He then fell 
back on the argument that "the Asperges only lengthens the 
service." He could say nothing when the parish priest of Mul- 
lewa pointed out that it took only two minutes, and that 
even with the reading of long notices and a sermon his Mass 
was over in less than fifty minutes. But after a moment the 
Bishop remarked: "That s much too quick; you ought to 
preach a longer sermon." 

In Geraldton Cathedral, where before Bishop Ryan s ad 
vent plain chant had been the rule, the music was changed 
to something not exactly liturgical. Father Hawes wrote: 



94 The Hermit of Cat Island 

"The ladies can now warble to their hearts* content Con- 
coni and other such operatic Mass murderers. They never 
get further with the Credo than down to the Incarnatus. The 
so-called High Mass* is now a Low Mass missa bassa con 
musica" In his own churches the choirs sang the Missa de 
Angelis, but it had been a hard struggle to get them to learn 
it 

What with one thing and another he wa$ getting plenty 
of hard knocks, but he could write, "However, it is all so 
good for one s soul. God is breaking me up to teach me 
greater detachment, I remember reading Tauler and his 
similitude of the dog shaking the bone or rag, making a play 
thing of it. 

"As to my cathedral at Geraldton, I feel more or less re 
signed now to the idea of having nothing more to do with it. 
I never go down there now, nor do I feel I want to see it any 
more; yet it used to mean so much to me. It still does, I sup 
pose, but this is probably not detachment or resignation, 
merely chagrin and wounded artistic pride, Perth may have 
to go, too, because the majority of the clergy don t want and 
certainly don t understand my design. Twice I have asked 
the Archbishop to relieve me of it and obtain the services 
of an architect more acceptable to the vox populi, but he is 
very kind and says, No, I want you to do it " 

Once again it was the simple people those supposed to 
have no artistic taste who never ceased to praise the 
churches designed and largely built by this priest-architect. 
He tells the story of how one of the men who had helped 
to build the church at Mullewa brought a pal to have a look 
at it "I sez to im, come an ave a look at Father s church. 
It don t look much from the road, but just come an* see ow 
thick the walls are-^ain t that bonza now? From out there 
you d think it was jus an ordinary buildin ... but this ere s 
different from any other church." It was these unsophisti- 



Busk Architect 95 

cated folk who agreed with Eric Gill that "Art is skill," that 
"beauty is a quality of things," and that "the artist is simply 
the responsible workman.* 3 

Bishop Ryan remained at Geraldton only from 1923 to 
1926. In March of the latter year he was transferred to the 
diocese of Sale in Victoria, not sorry to get away from West 
ern Australia where he never felt at home. Despite their 
frequent differences of opinion on art and architecture, 
Father Hawes was the first to admit that Dr. Ryan was "a 
good bishop/ and, above all, "a splendid missioner." The 
following three years the Archbishop of Perth acted as Ad 
ministrator Apostolic of the Geraldton diocese. Then, in 
1930, the Reverend James Patrick O Collins was appointed 
to the see. He soon became a loyal and devoted father and 
friend to Father Hawes. The relationship between the two 
men was most happy. 

One day in April 1929 Father Hawes received from Sister 
Mary Magdalene an American newspaper containing an ac 
count of the erection of the Bahamas as a prefecture apostolic, 
and that Father Bernard Kevenhoerster, O.S.B., had been 
recommended by Cardinal Hayes as first Prefect Apostolic, al 
though it was not until November 1933 that Monsignor Ber 
nard was consecrated bishop in St. Patrick s Cathedral, New 
York City. This reminder of the scene of his labors as an 
Anglo-Catholic Franciscan missionary inspired Father Hawes 
to write to Monsignor Bernard, asking if he would accept 
him for work in the islands subject to his obtaining a release 
from his own bishop. Monsignor Bernard replied that he 
would be delighted to welcome this Australian missionary to 
his poverty-stricken prefecture where more priests were badly 
needed. He explained that there were promising openings 
for fresh work, and that the people were most responsive. 
The fact that Father Hawes knew the Bahamas already, and 

3 Cf. Sacred and Secular (1940), p. 82. 



% The Hermit of Cat Island 

was remembered by so many people, as well as the fact that 
he was a convert from Anglo-Catholicism, would have a great 
influence. 

Shortly after this Bishop O Collins came to Mullewa, 
where Father Hawes laid the whole matter before him. He 
told his ordinary that he had begun to feel that his apostolate 
in Western Australia was finished, now that the church and 
presbytery at Mullewa were completed. "I had built the house 
for my successors," he wrote in his memoirs. "It was far too 
comfortable and un-Franciscan for me. I had grown very 
unsettled." The upshot of this interview was that Father 
Hawes agreed to remain until there were a few more priests. 
The Bishop said that he could not be spared at the moment, 
and he wrote to Monsignor Bernard pointing out the diffi 
culties in the diocese of Geraldton, above all the scarcity of 
priests. 

There were a number of reasons for Father Hawes s state 
of unsettlement. Most of his people were of Irish extraction, 
and rejoiced to find that their priest shared their own love 
of horses. For some years Father had owned a splendid mare. 
From a race horse he had bred a fine filly, and from her a 
good colt. He also bred fox terriers, and got the name of 
being an authority on all dogs and their ailments. As for 
the horses, Father Hawes was not content with using them 
for apostolic work. He trained some of them for the track, 
rode them himself in races, and once won the Geraldton Cup! 
The men of his flock used to say that a grand jockey had been 
lost in him. 

His ecclesiastical superiors do not seem to have objected 
to the priest becoming an amateur jockey. Both Bishop Kelly 
and Bishop O Collins attended the races and applauded his 
successes. As to the people they just went mad when the 
priest s horse came in first. At Yalgoo, on Sundays, a "bookie" 
took up the collection at Mass in the prize silver cup that 



Bush Architect 97 

Father Hawes had won at a racel But to quote his own words: 
"Almighty God was waiting for something more from me. 
I had become far too wrapped up in horses and riding and 
races I a priest and a Franciscan tertiary/* 

So his conscience pricked him again and again, but he was 
kept much too busy with architectural work to have time to 
wonder about the near or distant future. During the brief 
period that Bishop Ryan had ruled over the Geraldton dio 
cese, the priest-architect thought he had done with his T 
square and drawing board forever, but Bishop O Collins took 
a different view; insisting that Father Hawes design more 
and more churches, convents, and other buildings. The su 
pervision of buildings in process of erection entailed not only 
extra journeys, but also the worry of endless correspondence. 
It is hardly surprising that Father Hawes s letters to friends 
at home grew more and more infrequent. He was happy 
enough designing and working out plans, and seemed to 
thrive on this work, although he often sat up at his drawing 
board half the night. With his parochial duties, riding, the 
breeding of dogs, and architectural work, he was burning the 
candle at both ends. One day his doctor remarked: "I don t 
like the look of you; if you don t stop all this and get right 
away you ll have a bad nervous breakdown." 

The architectural work began to interfere with his priestly 
duties. Father Hawes wrote. "Niceties of design and problems 
of building construction obtruded themselves into all my 
prayers and attempted meditations. I had quite forgotten 
that the Art which was now again my first thought and ab 
sorbing preoccupation was the idol from which Our Lord 
had called me as a young man to go forth and serve Him in 
some other way. For instance, I would suddenly wake up to 
the fact that I had run on continuously through the psalms of 
three nocturnes of Matins and on to the end of Lauds with 
out having read the lessons and canticles, while I was men- 



98 The Hermit of Cat Island 

tally revolving the arching over of some space, or the con- 
struction of a roof truss." 

In 1933 his doctor and his bishop persuaded him to make 
a trip to England for a much-needed rest. Once he arrived 
in Europe he felt he must do a three weeks tour of Spain to 
study the architecture of that country, and he continued to 
mull over the same sort of architectural details that had oc 
cupied him in Australia. In a long letter written from the 
Hotel de Inglaterra, Seville, on June 6, 1933, illustrated with 
many sketches, plans and sections of churches, he wrote that 
"Milan is still the Queen of Cathedrals and Seville is grand 
and immense." Yet he had been convinced that "the Spanish 
architects have executed in most marvelous masonry what 
the Italians (would have liked to do but) only did in scenic 
painting/ 

What thrilled him above all else was the sight of the choir 
boys at Seville, dressed as pages, dancing in the sanctuary 
before the Blessed Sacrament exposed. He described how the 
Cardinal Archbishop came in after Lauds, vested in mdgnif- 
icent state, and sat on his throne at the west end of the coro 
where he blessed the incense. Never in his wildest dreams 
had Father Hawes imagined such splendid ceremonial. There 
was a "full orchestra and sublime music/ also "a tremendous 
lot of going up and down all the time between the coro and 
sanctuary. When a canon goes to preach he is escorted to the 
pulpit by a mace bearer, half-a-dozen choir boys, and three 
minor canons. The latter wear black capes and soutanes with 
red-edged buttonsthe canons are all in purple. The thurifer 
and acolytes wear apparelled albs and amices and dalmatics. 
The ladies go in for very pretty high combs in the back of 
their hair, and black lace mantillas over them. At dinner in 
the hotel there were some ladies in full dress with sort of 
crinolines. One was bright green, another pink with three 
white flounces," 



Bush Architect 99 

He mentioned that he had been in Burgos, Toledo, Se 
govia, Cordova, Granada, and Barcelona as well as Seville. 
Wherever he went his observant eyes noticed and his memory 
retained details of architecture or religious ceremonial. Never 
had he seen "such glorious sanctuaries, with huge Gothic 
retables soaring right up into the vault." He could hardly 
find words in which to do full justice to the sanctuary at 
Toledo, with "its apse, carved retable, and two glorious rood 
screens with the two thieves." But Seville had "the noblest 
altar and steps, and the most gorgeous gilded bronze screen 
you ever sawl" This tour of Spain had a lasting effect on 
Father Hawes s architectural designs. After 1933 his affection 
for baroque became far more pronounced, and it came out 
especially in the altar furnishings he planned for his churches. 

Then followed a tour of Ireland, where Father Hawes made 
a careful study of primitive Celtic architecture. What in 
terested him most was the stone barrel-vaulted roof of Cor- 
mac s Chapel at Cashel. He even felt it worth his while to 
investigate some of the ancient monastic cells on the coast 
of Kerry. Their beehive shape and domed stone roofs in 
horizontal courses fascinated him. In years to come he would 
make good use of his knowledge of early Christian buildings 
in Ireland. 

Father Hawes admits that by the time he had concluded 
his English visit and returned to Australia he had lost all 
further desire to go back to the Bahamas. To quote his own 
words: "I was getting old, and I felt I would not be much 
use now as a missionary. I dreaded the thought of the almost- 
continuous heat, the mosquitoes and the coarse, repugnant 
food, such as hominy. I tried hard to excuse myself, but all 
the same I knew quite well in my inner consciousness that 
God had called me. Never before had Western Australia 
seemed such a fair and lovely land to me. There was no nicer 
place under the sun than the Geraldton diocese. I had no 



100 The Hermit of Cat Island 

more desire to travel or to see new sights; no dear relatives or 
kind friends. I felt I had no further ties with the old coun- 
try." 

Other things helped to encourage him to remain on the 
southern continent. Bishop O Collins was so kind and consid 
erate; always ready to discuss, understand and appreciate 
questions of art, archaeology and liturgy. Moreover, the 
Bishop and Father Hawes had other interests in common 
above all, a love for dogs and horses. Finally, the diocese of 
Geraldton had been "put on the map." Hitherto it had been 
the despised Cinderella the most forlorn diocese in the 
whole of Australia. Visitors now came from Europe and 
North America. There was always something to show them 
including all the churches and institutions designed by the 
famous priest-architect. They departed interested and im 
pressed with the signs of progress. Father Hawes enjoyed all 
the bouquets and the limelight; realizing that he had helped 
in no small way to bring about this change. By 1934 he could 
regard himself as a "star!" He had achieved a name for him 
self. No longer was he despised as an eccentric convert clergy 
man. In fact, he had become one of the most important ec 
clesiastics on the continent, of whom everybody had heard, 
and who was constantly praised. He was definitely of "news 
value," not only as a priest-architect, but as a priest-jockey! 
Plenty of money rolled in, and he had quite forgotten what 
it meant to be poor. So he built a cottage in a lovely spot 
outside Geraldton, with the idea of retiring there to end 
his days as chaplain to the nearby Hospital of St. John of 
God. At the same time as he designed the Church of Santo 
Spirito he chose the place for his own grave at the foot of 
the rood screen, and even went so far as to have a memorial 
brass made, with his effigy clothed in vestments, and set into 
a marble slab. Meanwhile, the brass was hidden by a carpet. 
Yet he admits that he could not cheat his conscience even 
over this grave. He knew that he could never reside for long 



Bush Architect 101 

in this luxurious so-called "Hermitage," nor would his body 
ever lie under the pavement in the Church of Santo Spirito. 

Eventually the "Hermitage" became the residence of 
Father Hawes s closest friend in Australia, Father James Pren- 
dergast, after the latter was appointed chaplain to the hos 
pital. Father Hawes retained a room for his own use, and 
whenever business or pleasure called him to Geraldton, he oc 
cupied it. He described himself and his friend, sitting on 
either side of the big fireplace, contentedly smoking their 
pipes, with two dogs at their feet, stretched out in the fire 
light. There was nothing to suggest Franciscan poverty in 
this comfortable setting. 

Bishop O Collins, having decided to relieve Father Hawes 
of the burden of the vast parish of Mullewa, appointed him 
to Greenough, fifteen miles east of Geraldton. This town 
lies in the center of a long-established farming district, with 
solid stone houses and farm buildings, almost reminiscent of 
a bit of English countryside. Here the new parish priest could 
enjoy the sight of clumps of gnarled and twisted trees, with 
dense, shady foliage. The course of the river was marked by 
a serpentine procession of dark gum trees. On either side 
of the plain on which Greenough lies is a long range of hills. 
Just beyond them is the sea. 

Father Hawes reveled in these surroundings, and here he 
designed St. Peter s Church, which, unlike most of his Aus 
tralian churches, is in the Gothic style. He served two other 
churches about six miles distant from the town. Only his 
uncomfortable two-roomed presbytery reminded him of his 
Franciscan ideals. Here he set up his drawing board, and 
was soon immersed in more plans: first for the proposed con 
vent and chapel to be built for St. John of God s Hospital, 
and then for the new Nazareth House at Bluff Point. Father 
Hawes had reached a pinnacle of fulfillment and content 
ment in his work. Only the thorn of the idea of Franciscan 
poverty remained to prick him. 



7. 



The Bahamas Beckon [19S7-19S9] 



FOR some time Bishop O Collins had felt that Father Hawes 
deserved some official recognition for the many services he 
had rendered to the diocese of Geraldton. Through the Apos 
tolic Delegate he put the matter before the authorities in 
Rome, with the result that on December 28, 1937, Pius XI 
nominated this Australian priest as one of his domestic prel 
ates. In the document, signed by Cardinal Pacelli, then 
Secretary of State, it was stated that this honor was imparted 
especially because of the great work done in designing the 
new cathedral at Geraldton, not forgetting many other 
churches and diocesan institutions. 

Shortly after news of this distinction reached Father Hawes 
he wrote to Mr. Selby-Hall, "The blow, alas, has fallen, and 
my life is made a burden by a hail of congratulatory tele 
grams. It s astonishing the amount of money people in this 
country waste on telegrams, and the dear local folk awk 
wardly address me as Mon-sig-nor sig rhyming with fig. It s 
an overwhelming honor, when one is personally so absolutely 
unworthy of it, to be made a domestic prelate/ when you 
consider that many really eminent men like Hugh Benson 
were not given more than the distinction of a domestic 
chamberlain/ and here am I, the worst dressed and shabbiest 

102 



The Bahamas Beckon 103 

of all the priests in this diocese, supposed to be dressed in 
purple and fine linen* just the same as a bishop only without 
the pectoral cross mantelletta and all! Well, you and I have 
always had a special devotion to the papacy from the time 
we met at Lincoln as Anglicans. It was our love and daily 
prayer for the Pope that helped to bring us into the true 
Church, and now the Pope has repaid me, a poor convert, 
a hundredfold for that devotion by bestowing on me the 
Roman purple of his own household that purple that I kiss 
humbly on my knees as the colors (the school tie?) of the 
church of the catacombs, and the blood of the martyrs, and 
the doors of St. Peter s tomb. 

"Yet, please God, if I live, I hope yet to shed my fine pur 
ple feathers and, as a Benedictine oblate, to end my days 
in the Bahamas in a patched old habit as plain Brother John* 
(and the beard) !" 

It is easy to understand how this beloved English priest 
was nearly buried alive under congratulatory letters and tele 
grams. He longed to escape and hide himself, if only for a 
brief spell. 

One day, he recalls, he accompanied Bishop O Collins to 
Perth, where they lunched with the Archbishop, The latter 
had just lost (none too willingly) one of his priests, his 
private secretary, to the novitiate of the Friars Minor in Syd 
ney. In the hope of gaining a better understanding of the 
Franciscan spirit, the Archbishop had been reading Ernest 
Raymond s recently published book entitled In the Steps of 
St. Francis, and said that the Monsignor might be interested 
in it. The latter admitted that at the moment he had too 
many other things to bother about to read another life of 
the Little Poor Man of Assisi, but that he went off with the 
book. 

"That same evening," he wrote, "my Bishop and I went to 
the cinema. It was a typical and silly Hollywood film how 



104 The Hermit of Cat Island 

different from the beautiful Snow White we had seen to 
gether some months before! As we hurried out after the 
show, I saw before the entrance a poor young fellow with 
a sad face playing the violin. . . . Alas! I had nothing in my 
pocket- When I got back upstairs to my bedroom in the Arch 
bishop s palace I was disgusted with the whole day. I thought 
how worldly and grand I was becoming lunching in state 
with two bishops, and being sped luxuriously around the 
city of Perth and its suburbs in a magnificent automobile. 
The face of that poor young fellow with the violin outside 
the cinema haunted me. I sat down sadly to recite Vespers 
and Compline. Then I picked up In the Steps of St. Francis, 
bound in Franciscan brown, and opened it at random. The 
passage on which my eyes fell ran more or less as follows 
I have not the book with me so I cannot give the exact words: 

"And I little brother Francis, useless servant, beg and pray hum 
bly all who in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church wish to 
serve the Lord God, that they will persevere in the true faith and 
conversion, for otherwise they cannot be saved. I beg and beseech 
you that with all our heart, with all our strength and power, 
with all our desire and will, we love the Lord our God Who has 
created and redeemed us. Let us therefore seek nothing else, wish 
for nothing else. May nothing restrain us therefore, nothing 
separate us, nothing drive us from Him. 

"We may read passages such as this exhortations and 
pleadings dozens of times without their making any real im 
pression on our minds or any appeal to us, just as we read 
such momentous words in the Holy Gospels, the words of 
Jesus Christ Himself. But there comes a day sometimes when 
those same familiar sentences seem to bring, standing over 

us, the very writer himself or the living speaker, his eyes 

fire; his tongue a sword! 

"Now the Little Poor Man had come for his lost sheep. 



The Bahamas Beckon 105 

All my past devotion to him surged up within me to him 
who walked so closely in the steps of The Master. I prayed 
that night in a way I had not done for many years. About 
half-past three in the morning I lay down for a couple of 
hours sleep. It had been arranged for me to celebrate Mass 
at the Convent of Mercy Chapel, after my Bishop. It was 
the Octave of the Feast of the Epiphany, 1939. As soon as 
I began the Introit, my soul was flooded with light and con 
solation. I could hardly get through the Mass; I wanted to 
burst into tears. I blew my nose continually. I choked and 
coughed to hide my emotion. Our Lord in His pity gave me 
a momentary joy on Mount Tabor that the memory of that 
Mass might strengthen me afterward in all that I knew I 
must go through. The great chapel was full of nuns, and the 
bishop was kneeling at a prie-dieu in the doorway of the 
sacristy. It was terrible, but at last I got through. The Sister- 
sacristan said: You ve got a bad cold, Father/ At breakfast 
in the parlor the Bishop remarked with a smile that I d been 
very slow saying my Mass." 

Bishop O Collins had for some time been suggesting that 
Monsignor Hawes take another trip to Europe and even 
urged him to go. The priest kept putting it off, explaining 
that he could not get away until this or that church was 
built. Bishop O Collins had come to the conclusion that the 
Monsignor had given up all idea of the Bahamas missions, 
just because he never mentioned the matter. And why should 
he do so, how that he was a domestic prelate to His Holiness 
the Pope? He had earned the right to settle down comfortably 
and spend the rest of his life, enjoying himself designing 
churches, and living in ecclesiastical luxury. It seems that 
Monsignor Hawes could not bring himself to reveal to his 
Bishop what had happened to him on the night when he had 
realized so clearly that he must follow the star wherever it 
guided him. 



106 The Hermit of Cat Island 

Anyhow, It was impossible for him to get away until the 
vicar-general of the diocese returned from a holiday in 
Europe. He considered later on that he had been subcon 
sciously hoping that circumstances would conspire to prevent 
his responding to the call from the Bahamas. One day he 
summoned up his courage to ask the Bishop for permission 
for a holiday, because the latter was due to make his ad 
limina visit to Rome in 1940. The request was granted 
without any hesitation, so Monsignor Hawes was free to 
leave whenever it suited him. 

At the next diocesan retreat for the clergy, the Monsignor 
made up his mind to give up smoking, in view of the sort of 
life which lay ahead of him. One night, when the other priests 
had retired to their rooms, he went into the chapel, and laid 
his pipe on the altar step. He never smoked again. 

Next came the sad task of fixing the date for sailing to 
Europe. He allowed himself four months to put his house in 
order and to complete his work. The days sped past, and with 
a sinking heart he marked them off on the calendar. In after 
years he wrote: "I ought, of course, to have laid bare my soul 
to my dear Bishop and told him that what I hoped to do was 
to become a Franciscan tertiary and cast off the purple and 
lace which I wore on ceremonial occasions in virtue of being 
a right reverend monsignor, but my nerves were so strung 
up that I felt I simply could not face any arguing out of the 
matter. Nor could I face the additional pain of saying good- 
by to my many dear friends, knowing quite well that it did 
not mean just a God be with you till we meet again, but 
a real farewell* forever. Nor could I put up with the ques 
tioning and the fussy farewelling of the crowd, however 
kindly and sincerely intended." 

Just what Monsignor Hawes was visualizing at that mo 
ment was described in a letter written to Sister Mary Mag 
dalene. He said, "I no longer think of a striving or combative 



The Bahamas Beckon 107 

life on Long Island, but picture an entirely new field some 
smaller out-of-the-way and unfrequented island where the 
people are not visited by other missionaries, Anglican or any 
Protestant sect, but to retain their own primitive unsophisti 
cated type of Baptist or Holy-Roller meeting under ignorant 
local preachers. I have in my mind s eye the Island of Maya- 
guana, quite isolated out in the ocean, and marked on the 
chart with an apparently high hill Abram s Hill [Guana 
Hill] and two lesser summits. I can picture an isolated palm- 
thatched cell beside a tiny stone church on Abram s Hill 
whence the hermit would descend on weekends into the 
settlements or village to minister to Catholic converts in their 
former Baptist (or whatever it might be) meetinghouse, trans 
formed into a humble Catholic place of worship, and from 
which village the hermit-priest would in true Franciscan style 
beg his food, such as maize, potatoes and bananas. Sunday 
Mass and Benediction for the converts in their village; the 
Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle and the hermit s only 
daily Mass in the little church on the top of Abram s Hill." 

As time wore on, the Monsignor felt he could not per 
sonally disclose the true facts to his Bishop and decided to 
write to him once he was on the high seas. He relied on the 
promise made seven years before that when the time arrived 
the Bishop would place no obstacle in the way of his taking 
up work in the Bahamas. As to the ultimate decision 
whether he could leave the diocese of Geraldton for good, 
or must return to Australia eventually that must rest with 
Bishop O Collins or his successor. 

This is how the Monsignor summed up his convictions 
at that moment: "When God calls us (speaking by His Holy 
Spirit in our conscience) to do certain things, we must do 
them or deteriorate in our spiritual life. I admire the life 
around me (in which I have been taking a part), but there 
is an inward movement planted by God in my soul, so I 



108 



The Hermit of Cat Island 



believe an inescapable impulse which for so long and for 
whatever I may do against it has been forcing me in another 
direction. I know not (nor does it matter) whether God is 
calling me now for any more work to do, or any sphere of use 
fulness it may be only in order to uproot me, for the good 
of my soul. Even though I may now be useless as a missionary 
in the Bahamas, I can, amid the poverty and simplicity of the 
people on the out islands, live a real Franciscan life in the 
strict and literal observance of holy poverty according to the 
Gospels, which would be impossible to do in Western Aus 
tralia in anything of the same literal way." 

Perhaps the hardest thing that faced him was to say good- 
by to his beloved "Dominie," to whom he was utterly de- 



as 




Monsignor Hawes and Dominie 

voted. He writes: "Dogs have the gift of second sight, they 
can read our thoughts. When the beginning of the last week 
came I was feeling utterly miserable. I was at work, finishing 
some plans in the library of the Bishop s palace. My fox 
terrier would not leave me for a moment; if I went out of 
the room for only a minute to fetch something, she was after 
me. She would not, as usual, settle down to sleep in one of 



The Bahamas Beckon 109 

the armchairs near me, but must come and lie against my 
feet all the time. Now and again, when I spoke to her, look 
ing up she gave me a glance so full of love and sorrow that 
it filled my own eyes with tears. Did she not understand what 
I knew and was grieving over the hour for the parting draw 
ing nearer and nearer? It was an agony of mind for me to 
leave this faithful friend who for nine years had been my 
constant companion everywhere I went. However, I knew 
I was leaving her in good hands, with friends who would take 
care of her. It was on a farm near Greenough in such sur 
roundings as she loved, with the company of little children 
and horses, and plenty of rabbits to chase. 

"When my indoor work was finished at last, Dominie and 
I forgot our troubles and for our last three days together, 
joined by her son Rory from the Hermitage, we had some 
delightful rambles over the sand dunes, swimming in the sea, 
and digging for crabs in the sand. Was there ever a fox ter 
rier who could climb trees like Rory, or such a fearless little 
swimmer through the breakers after a stick?" 

At last the day came and after a cheerful little dinner party 
at the Bishop s palace, Monsignor Hawes piled his baggage 
in the back seat of his little green Ford and drove down to 
the railroad station, Dominie beside him. Bishop O Collins 
was awaiting him and the Monsignor knelt down for a final 
blessing. The next day, when he reached New Norcia, he 
called at the Benedictine abbey to say farewell to the Abbot 
and monks. It was the end of twenty-four years as a missionary 
in Western Australia. 

John Cyril Hawes had reached his sixty-second year when 
he left Geraldton on May 9, 1939. Three days later he sailed 
from Freemantle, and as he crossed die Indian Ocean he be 
gan his apologia pro vita sua with these words: "These notes 
are the confessions of one who was called and who put his 
hand to the plow and looked back. He is not fit for the 



110 The Hermit of Cat Island 

Kingdom of God. But God has been very patient. . . . Forty 
years long was I grieved with this generation. ... * In my age 
Our Lord sent His bold servant St. Francis to call me back 
into the way, to give me another chance to become again as 
a little child. I mistrust so much all that I do now that I am 
doubtful whether I ought to write this. Am I being egotis 
tical? May Our Lord deliver me from self-deception and 
pride, from being too self-centered." 

The little black-bound notebook, which was entrusted to 
the author of this biography by Bishop O Collins for whose 
private use it was intended, covers the whole of the life of 
John Cyril Hawes from his childhood until his farewell to 
Australia, stressing in particular the more important spiritual 
graces he had received, and laying perhaps too much em 
phasis on the countless occasions when he felt he had re 
sisted God s grace and failed to answer His call. Again and 
again St. Francis appears, or, rather, the urge to follow the 
Franciscan way of life a persistent call to embrace holy 
poverty. One is conscious on almost every page of a dual 
personality in the writer: the artist, and the lover of God and 
souls. The one is ever striving to master the other. At least 
this is how Monsignor painted his own portrait on that six 
weeks voyage back to Europe. 

The book ends thus: "I am well on the way now. As I write 
these words, the ship is nearing Suez. On my left rise up the 
red clifflike barriers of Egypt. On my right are the blue, misty 
peaks of Sinai against the morning sun. The waters of the 
Red Sea are nearly past. There can be no turning back now. 

"I hope soon to kneel in the Holy Sepulcher and to visit 
the other holy pkces in the Master s steps. Then to Rome 
to get the Holy Father s blessing. Then, Assisi. And thence, 
on to what Our Lord may have in store for me. Domine quo 
vadis?" 

All went according to plan. Monsignor Hawes arrived at 



The Bahamas Beckon HI 

Jerusalem early in June, dressed himself in a Franciscan 
habit, and thus disguised made his pilgrimage to the holy 
places of Palestine. When he finished he set out for Italy, 
and arrived at Rome on June 28. There followed an audi 
ence with Pius XI and a general confession to Father Bene 
dict Williamson, whom he had looked to as his spiritual di 
rector for many years. 

These two priests understood each other. Father William 
son, like Monsignor Hawes, had practiced as an architect be 
fore he was received into the Catholic Church in 1896. 
After his ordination in 1909 he had designed many churches 
in England, most of them as original as those of Monsignor 
Hawes. He had tried and failed to revive the male branch of 
the Bridgettine Order. Some time before 1939 he had set 
tled in Rome as chaplain to the Little Company of Mary 
at their hospital in the via San Stefano Rotondo. 

He now advised Monsignor Hawes to "put yourself en 
tirely and absolutely, without any conditions, in the hands 
of God. His Will will be made known to you through the 
external authority of His Church, speaking to you through 
your Bishop. Submit the whole matter to your Bishop (when 
you write), and remind him of the promise he made you 
seven years ago. Pray to God (not that He will make your 
Bishop do this or that, according as you want it to be), but 
that the Bishop may, by his decision, make known to you 
God s will for you. If the Bishop abides by his former prom 
ise of years back, and sets you free to leave his diocese, then 
you will know that this vocation, as it seems to you, is from 
God and you can confidently follow the new life that 
beckons you/ 1 

With this encouragement from Father Williamson, Mon 
signor Hawes left Rome for Assisi to spend a week revisiting 
all the places associated with the Little Poor Man. It was 
the hermitage of the Careen, on the slopes of Monte Subasio, 



112 The Hermit of Cat Island 

that drew him most strongly, for this was the model of a 
retreat which he hoped to build for himself. 

On his way to England he stopped for a few days in Paris, 
where he arranged to meet his old friend and fellow student 
at the Beda, Father Henry E. G. Rope. The latter recalls 
that "to my wonder he had grown a beard. I knew whither 
he was destined, but he said nothing about any hermitage, 
and I wondered why a missionary in the Bahamas should be 
unshaven. However, I doubted not he had his own good 

reasons, and did not ask him It fell to me to pilot him by 

omnibus and underground and afoot to the Luxembourg 
Gardens and several of the churches. We had a simple meal 
at an outdoor restaurant, and heard Vespers and Benediction 
at St. Etienne du Mont. I had also to tell Hawes the values of 
French money. Indeed I was in grave danger of imagining 
myself for once, in a small measure, quite businesslikel" x 

Father Rope parted reluctantly from Monsignor Hawes 
who, after a short pilgrimage to Lisieux, arrived in London 
on July 14. The following day he wrote a long letter to the 
Bishop of Geraldton, describing his visits to the Holy Land, 
Rome, Assisi and Lisieux, and said, "I have made it a real 
pilgrimage and have had plenty of time for thought and 
prayer, and have screwed myself up now to write this, to 
remind you of a promise you made me seven years ago: that* 
when the time came you would put no obstacles in the way 
of my going to take up missionary work in the Bahamas 
Islands/ 

"I have waited to see the vacant places of the diocese 
filled up by the younger priests who have since come out, 
and I may say that during the waiting I have grown still 
more attached to, and interested in, the Geraldton diocese, 
and especially since you . . . have always been so particularly 
kind and considerate to me ... a very dear friend. 

i Rope, op. cit., p. 14. 



The Bahamas Beckon 113 

"It is no feeling of unsetdement or desire of change that 
moves me in this matter, but purely a matter of vocation 
(as I feel). When I first became a Catholic I copied down 
some words of Father Isaac Hecker (Founder of the Paulist 
Fathers): The Holy Spirit is the immediate guide of the soul 
in the way of salvation and sanctification; and the criterion or 
test that the soul is guided by the Holy Spirit is its ready 
obedience to the authority of the Church. The Holy Spirit 
acting through the external authority of the Church is the 
infallible interpreter of divine inspiration in the soul/ When 
there is a question of vocation, it is no longer a matter de 
pending on likes or dislikes. If the inner call is disregarded, 
the soul will deteriorate in the spiritual life." 

The Monsignor went on to tell his Bishop about the advice 
given him in Rome by Father Benedict Williamson, and how 
he had written down the chief events in his spiritual jour 
ney in a notebook which he was about to send by air mail to 
the Bishop. He said that it might help the latter to read 
these confessions, adding, "Defer your decision until you 
have read them and treat them as confidential; do not discuss 
this matter with anyone else as indeed I know you would 
not/ 

Having explained that Bishop Bernard, O.S.B., Vicar Apos 
tolic of the Bahamas, had not influenced him in any way 
since they began to correspond in 1932, he ended this letter: 
"I am upset at the thought of causing you any pain or dis 
appointment but, as I said, I am compelled by the strong 
conviction of vocation. I leave this matter in your hands as 
the one having the authority and ultimate right to decide. 
Let me know your decision, by air mail, when you write. 
Don t bother to return the notebook (you might put it in the 
safe along with my will)/ 

It was not until the early part of September 1939 that 
Monsignor received the first of two answers from Bishop 



114 The Hermit of Cat Island 

O Collins. In the first letter the Bishop assured Monsignor 
Hawes that, having read the notebook mailed to him on 
July 15, he was prepared to grant the priest unlimited leave 
of absence from the diocese so that he could make a full trial 
of the life he visualized in the Bahamas. Nevertheless, the 
Bishop remarked that he doubted if the sixty-one-year-old 
priest would be able to adapt himself to this austere and 
literal interpretation of the primitive Franciscan way of liv 
ing. "You anticipated to a certain extent what I desired/ he 
wrote, "but your notebook is only part. Hence, as your 
Bishop, I request you to write a full autobiography in humil 
ity and in detail/ 

Bishop O CoIlins followed this generous acceptance of 
Monsignor Hawes s plan with a second letter limiting the 
leave of absence to June 1941, with the proviso that it could 
be extended if the Monsignor felt he had found his true 
vocation. "You may find out," he cautioned him, "after a 
short time that you are not wanted in the Bahamas. You have 
tried before, and you may yet live to learn that a return to 
the poverty of the life in this diocese may be better for the 
progress of your spiritual life. I myself should be delighted 

to see you return My prayer for you shall always be that 

you may be happy in the Lord. Pray for me." 

It was indeed hard for the Bishop to give up his missionary 
with whom he had worked so closely for so long. In 1948, in 
a letter addressed to the author, Bishop O Collins remarked, 
"I always found Monsignor Hawes a most colorful char 
acter. He is an extraordinary person. It went very hard with 
me to allow him to stay in the Bahamas. I grew to like him 
much and I, as the Bishop, could never have accomplished 
the many works in the way of building in the diocese of 
Geraldton. He was an architect, painter, sculptor, stone 
mason, decorator, poet, horseman and horse breeder. 
On one occasion we two left Mullewa, his parish, between 



The Bahamas Beckon 1 1 5 

3 and 4 A.M. to travel to Geraldton on a goods train. We sat 
on the floor of the brake van with our legs dangling over the 
line and our backs resting against the side where the doors 
were slid back. The atmosphere was just right, and he 
proved wonderfully interesting as he talked about the far-off 
days as an Anglican novice on Caldey Island. . . . 

"His life has always been a very austere one; the harder 
and more difficult the more he liked it. I always had the 
impression that he never let up. The result of his austerities 
was that he was often nervy and required careful handling. 
I have wished often since I came (to Ballarat) that he was 
with me. . . " 

Of this latter tribute, however, Monsignor Hawes was to 
remain blissfully unaware, and the two letters which he him 
self received were all that he needed: God had spoken to 
him through the external authority of His Church. Now with 
a clear conscience he could follow the new life that beck 
oned him. But first there were many old friends in England 
whom he wanted to see before he sailed across the Atlantic, 
probably never to return. He must also make a retreat, which 
he chose to do at Buckfast Abbey, since for several years he 
had been corresponding with Brother Peter, the German 
lay Brother, who had trained other Brothers in masonry, 
and who, with them, had built most of the great abbey 
church. Monsignor Hawes also planned to visit Prinknash 
Abbey, but time was limited and instead he made the long 
journey to Tintagel, the high, rocky promontory on the 
north coast of Cornwall where were the ruins of a castle 
famous in the Arthurian romances. Here his imagination 
was fired by the traces of hermits cells dating from Celtic 
times which reminded him of similar cells he had seen in the 
west of Ireland. He pictured erecting something of the same 
kind when he had chosen a site on one of the more remote 
islands in the Bahamas, visualizing himself as another St. 



116 The Hermit of Cat Island 

Brendan the Navigator, living in a stone beehive-shaped hut, 
like the monastic cells on Skelligs Mhicil off the coast of 
Kerry. 

On October 16, 1939 six weeks after the outbreak of 
World War II Monsignor Hawes boarded a liner bound 
for New York to begin a new phase of his colorful and varied 
career. 



8. 



Gat Island [1939-1940] 



WITH his major decision now behind him, the next problem 
that confronted Monsignor Hawes was the choice of a site for 
his hermitage. Once in New York at St. Anselm s Priory he 
was able to talk over the matter with Bishop Bernard Keven- 
hoerster who was in the United States on a brief visit. The 
Bishop suggested to him that he make a leisurely tour of the 
Bahamas and report on conditions and prospective openings 
for missionaries. As for his hermitage, he could please him 
self as to its situation, although the Bishop thought that the 
northern half of Long Island or perhaps Cat Island, with its 
few lonely Catholics, might be suitable- With his mind filled 
with these possibilities, the Monsignor went off to spend a 
week with the Franciscan Missionary Sisters at Peekskill, then 
returned to New York and boarded the S.S. Munargo bound 
for Nassau. 

On the evening of November 12 Monsignor Hawes, arrayed 
in his purple sash and rochet, assisted at first Vespers and 
preached the sermon for the feast of All Saints of the Benedic 
tine Order in the little cathedral at Nassau. The congregation 
was made up chiefly of poor colored people with a scattering 
of whites, and he was delighted by the lusty singing of the 
English hymns before and after Benediction. "The whole 

117 



118 The Hermit of Cat Island 

service was very homely and hearty," he wrote, but even this 
could not hold back a wave of homesickness for Australia. 
The entry in his diary for that day ends, "Feeling very lonely 
and miserable. Experience no pleasure in the beauty and 
pleasantness of the place. This is a help to detachment 
Jesus, my truly joy be Thou." 

At that time the Nassau Benedictine community consisted 
of Bishop Kevenhoerster, nine resident priests and one lay 
Brother, with five more priests situated on other islands. 
Monsignor Hawes s interest was piqued by the fact that the 
younger monks went about on bicycles; he was impressed by 
the missionary zeal displayed by the whole community. It 
pleased him, too, to find that "Brother" Christopher, "a huge 
big Negro in minor orders . , . was at the Propaganda College 
in Rome, and knows all the younger of the Geraldton and 
Perth priests, having been their fellow student. He is also a 
seigeant major, and drills all the volunteers and recruits for 
the Bahamian Army. Giving evening classes in Spanish, 
Italian and French is another of his jobs." * 

He wrote down his newly refreshed impressions of Nassau, 
describing it as "the loveliest and pleasantest little town I ve 
ever seen so bright and cheerful and picturesque. . . . 
Pretty houses, the stone and plastered walls distempered in 
pinks and yellows or dazzling whitewash; gray, pine-shingled 
roofs, hips and gables and quaint dormers; overhanging 
balconies with every type of shutters, jalousies and trelliswork 
... all the colors of southern Spain with the neatness, trinmess 
and cleanliness of old-country England." And the landscape, 
". . . palm trees, casuarinas and every species of gorgeous 
tropical flowers . . . and such quaint little narrow, winding 
streets, uphill and downhill, with cuttings through the 
natural rock, and steps hewn into it." 

i Christopher Foster, "Brother" Christopher, actually was not a member 
of the community, but was only a candidate lor the Oblates of St. Benedict. 



Cat Island 119 

Then the harbor in "masts and rigging between every 
block of shops or market buildings: trim white schooners and 
sloops at anchor on the transparent blue and opalescent green 
waters of the harbor, which, with its wharves, is a busy place. 
Ships are always arriving or leaving. Yesterday there were 
half a dozen or so island mail boats, and I saw a big Canadian 
steamer painted wartime gray with a gun mounted on her 
poop. Airplanes arrive three times a week from Miami, and 
come down onto the water in the harbor." 

In spite of the charms of the scenery, Monsignor Hawes 
did not remain long at Nassau. Within three days of his ar 
rival he had boarded the mail steamer, Monarch of Nassau, to 
visit some of his old friends on Long Island. After a very 
stormy passage, the steamer anchored off Arthur s Town, Cat 
Island, on the morning of November 17. 

That same day, about 2 P.M., when approaching the Bight, 
the seasick passenger had his first glimpse of his future home. 
He recorded in his diary: "As I viewed the shore from the 
Monarch s deck, two things struck my eye at once: the high 
hill at the back, and a large square ruin in the center of the 
settlement. The latter suggested a fine place for the Catholic 
church, and the hilltop for a retired hermitage. ... I asked 
the captain how high the hill was and he said die government 
survey chart marked it at 420 feet, the highest land in the 
Bahamas. Most of the islands are low, with little hills of 100 
or sometimes 200 feet, but they look higher than they are be 
cause of their steep and rocky outline, like miniature toy 
mountains, especially as the houses are small and lend scale 
to the scene. Trees are small, too." 

When the steamer docked, Monsignor Hawes found a 
rough track that led eastward out from the settlement and 
curled about through the "bush" until it ended at the foot 
of the last bit of steep summit. Leaving the track, he fought 
his way for three quarters of an hour through the thick bush, 



120 The Hermit of Cat Island 

climbing over irregular, jagged faces of rock, until he was 
about a mile and a half from the sea front. It was a wild and 
lonely spot with a magnificent view, including the ocean on 
the east side of the island. The priest surveyed the terrain 
carefully, then made his way back to the sea to inspect the 
ruin. Here bushes grew inside and a tall wild fig tree had 
climbed one inner corner. "The ruin reminded me of some 
of those on the site of old Panama city," he wrote. "Good 
thick walls built of squared stones. House of some planter in 
the early slavery days." 

The Monarch sailed about sunset, and after a rough pas 
sage made San Salvador the following morning. Here Mon- 
signor Hawes was welcomed by Father Herbert Buerschinger, 
O.S.B., and he celebrated Mass in the new stone-vaulted 
church, which he greatly admired. Late in the evening of 
November 18, as the mail steamer entered Clarence Town 
harbor on Long Island, on a distant hilltop he caught sight of 
St. Paul s Anglican church which he had designed nearly 
thirty years before. The next morning Sunday he beheld 
its twin baroque towers, gleaming white in the brilliant sun 
shine. "The Pearl of the Bahamas," the out-island people 
and sailors called this church, so he jotted down in his diary. 
But now he could not worship in this lovely church, and had 
to say Mass in the ground-floor room of a former store that 
served as a temporary Catholic chapel. 

Many of the older people on Long Island remembered 
their one-time Episcopalian pastor. Some of them fell on their 
knees and hugged him. One old blind woman threw her arms 
around his neck, crying out: "Father Jerome! Father Jerome! 
To think I live to this day that you come to see me again! O 
my good Jesus, I thank You!" The Monsignor was told that 
the Catholics at Clarence Town were all colored people. At 
Deadman s Cay they were mostly poor white folk. Here a new 



Cat Island 121 

church, dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, had been 
built in 1938. 

Long Island proved to be in a desperate state. Droughts, 
followed by heavy rains, had destroyed all the seeds planted. 
A plague of worms had eaten all the roots and fruit There 
were no crops, and no price for sisal. A disease had killed all 
the sponges. The sponge fleet was idle, and the boats laid up. 
The people were literally starving. There were no peas, no 
beans, no sweet potatoes or bananas. The poor could earn no 
money to buy any sugar or coffee. All they lived on was the 
yield of their little plantations, supplemented by gifts of corn 
and flour from Father Arnold Mondloch, O.S.B., who had 
the charge of Long Island. Nearly all the out islands were in a 
similar state of destitution, but Long Island had been hit the 
hardest. Andros was very bad, too. 

Monsignor Hawes described the plight of Jonathan 
Knowles, a white man, who had been struck with blindness 
and was now eighty years old. "I found his former good stone 
house had been destroyed by a hurricane in 1926. He was now 
living in a miserable wooden shack, about nine feet square, 
with a palm-thatched roof a picturesque enough scene, 
with its setting of palm trees and rich foliage on a rocky 
eminence looking down over the sparkling waters of the great 
lagoon. But wide cracks gaped between every ant-eaten board 
and daylight through the thatch. The old man lay on his bed, 
just a skinful of bones. His good wife said, He s got such pain 
inside from emptiness, he s just turned his face to the wall to 
die there s nothing else for us! She told me that they 
shivered at night with the cold winds, and were often soaked 
with rain. I looked at the few cooking utensils; not one grain 
of corn enough for a mouse to nibble. Don t the neighbors 
help you? I asked. She replied, They don t come to see us 
now, because they can t; they ve nothing themselves/ " 



122 The Hermit of Cat Island 

The effect of being confronted by poverty which was more 
austere than that of any Franciscan community had an im 
mediate effect on the Monsignor. It drove home to him what 
was demanded of him as a tertiary and a follower of the Little 
Poor Man. The first thing he did was to make a resolution to 
sleep on the floor instead of on a bed. He tried it for the 
first time on hard concrete, and admitted that the mosquitoes 
and sand flies did not leave him much peace. 

He jotted down in his diary: "We must follow the example 
of the Holy Father who offers himself to do penance for the 
war, which in itself is a punishment for the nations forget- 
fulness and rejection of God. . . . Here on Long Island the 
people are simple, unsophisticated and religious-minded. 
They live in great poverty, whites as well as colored people. 
They go barefooted and eat very little. . . . They remind me 
much of the Arab and other native people in Palestine. With 
such primitive conditions as are to be found in most of the 
out islands of the Bahamas one could not attain to a closer 
Franciscan observance of the Gospel poverty than simply to 
live among the people as they live > and to share their priva 
tions and hardships as cheerfully as they bear these them 
selves." 

Even Father Arnold had not much to offer his distin 
guished guest in the way of food. The meals consisted of 
hominy or boiled rice, with white beans and onions, and 
black coffee. But the Monsignor felt he was "indulging in 
gluttony in the midst of such abject poverty and want all 
around/ 

In the midst of new preoccupation, Monsignor Hawes had 
not forgotten his dog Dominie in Australia. He wrote, "The 
loss of her companionship is the greatest cross of all. That I 
should feel the separation from an animal far more than that 
from any living human being ... is, I suppose, a sign of my 
unspiritual mind. I thank God for His goodness in letting 



Cat Island 123 

me have the enjoyment for nine years of such an affectionate 
and loyal Mend. If only I could love God and be content and 
happy when in His Presence as the little bitch was in mine, 
then I should do well. I can t help grieving, and I feel so 
lonely, but I try not to fret, because Dominie is in good 
hands. 

"Tin-pot theologians are never weary of emphasizing that 
animals have no souls and no rights and no future. Well, I 
know my theology enough to know that an animal has not 
got a rational soul, but it has an animal soul/ and of such a 
sort that those most beautiful of God s gifts of love and 
loyalty (virtues not found in cabbages) shine out in a pre 
eminent degree in the said animal soul. Love is not a perish 
able thing. Whatever some professors of theology may say, 
the Catholic Church does not, nor has need to, lay it down 
that there is no future existence for the animal creation. 
Well! To the end of my life I shall hold firm to this senti 
ment, because love, per se, is a gift for eternity." 

Monsignor Hawes returned to Nassau for the feast of the 
Immaculate Conception to find that a friend had sent him a 
copy of the Christmas number of the Western Mail contain 
ing colored pictures of West Australian ranges, forests, farms 
and gum trees. Once again he felt "very, very homesick." But 
this feeling partially disappeared when on December 15 he 
sailed for Harbour Island, Eleuthera. At Dunmore Town, a 
lovely spot, with a perfect conjunction of beauties of land and 
sea, he found a fair-sized stone church, a convent with three 
Sisters of Charity, and good school buildings. Eleuthera was 
"a real garden Paradise." Conditions were very different from 
those on Long Island. There was plenty of food. Bananas sold 
at six for a penny. Coconuts were cheap and plentiful. The 
presbytery was comfortable and modern. 

The garden contained some fine palm trees. Father Lean- 
der Roerig was the perfect host. Then there were enjoyable 



124 The Hermit of Cat Island 

sails over blue waters to some of the out stations, for instance 
to the Lower Bogue where there was "such a gem of a little 
church, with the altar excavated out of the solid rock of the 
hillside by cutting away down to the steps and floor of the 
sanctuary." 

Father Leander went off for Christinas and left the Mon- 
signor in charge of Dunmore Town. After the midnight Mass, 
which was sung amid clouds of incense, the youth of the set 
tlement ran wild, exploding firecrackers. The result was that 
the priest got no sleep before it was time to rise again for his 
second Mass at seven-thirty. He wrote in his diary that he was 
"reduced to a complete nervous wreck, with the heart pump 
ing furiously." 

In the solitude of the presbytery he opened his diary and 
made the following entry: 

"December 25, 1939. God has now called me to the greatest 
cross of my life and the greatest separation from the world. I 
look back too much, and am longing again for that which I 
have surrendered to God. I must make these thoughts on the 
past an act of thanksgiving and gratitude. How good God has 
been to me. And now He wishes to be more so in another 
way, new to me, if only I will but trust Him. 

"How happy I was last Christmas. I had moved into my 
little presbytery at Greenough. I arranged my books and my 
drawing things in the sitting room. I cooked spaghetti a 
I ltalienne and had a bottle of claret the Bishop had given 
me. There was a nice plateful of meat for Dominie, with a 
real good bone. Then I sat down comfortably in the easy 
chair, lit my pipe, and my dear doggie jumped up on my lap 
and buried her nose between my knees. I read the Universe 
and the Catholic Herald. Then got into the little green car, 
Dom by my side, and set down over the river bridge to fetch 
a paralyzed girl and her mother and the old man* for mid 
night Mass. How beautiful was the service! There was no 



Cat Island 125 

kerosene for the lamps, so the church was as dim and mys 
terious as the cave at Bethlehem, with only the flickering light 
of the six candles on the altar and two tapers each before the 
images of Our Lady and the Sacred Heart. There was another 
candle on the confessional and one on the closed organ case. 
No distractions as to marshaling into order a lot of altar boys. 
No directing of a procession to the crib, with all the worry 
and anxiety as to whether everything was going all right, as it 
used to be at Mullewa. There was no music and singing just 
the dim, spacious church, well-filled benches of silent wor 
shipers, and the glorious liturgy. 

"Then, after running people home in the car, I returned 
to the presbytery. Next a refreshing sleep, with the soothing 
music of Dominie s gentle snoring in the basket beside the 
bed where I could reach out my hand to pat her. In the fresh 
morning the sound of the sea beyond the dunes and the lovely 
warm air, sunshine and scuttling rabbits as we went over the 
hill and down to Bootenal and Walkaway. And in the after 
noon a delightful run up to the Hermitage to see dear old 
Jim, with an uproarious meeting between Dominie and her 
son Rory. Then on down to the palace, and a joyful Christmas 
reunion with the Bishop and some of the clergy. So happy 
and settled was I at Christmas. But then at the octave of the 
Epiphany all this peace was upset by the vision of the star, 
the call within my soul. Ah! the Hound of Heaven! 

"Well, why am I writing all this down? My pen is running 
away with me. I suppose it is to follow my heart, which has 
flown home across the oceans. Last week I was delving into a 
life of St. Teresa which I found on Father Leander s book 
shelves. The saint says: St. Peter lost nothing by throwing 
himself into the sea, though he was afterward afraid. God 
loves courageous souls, but they must be humble and have no 
confidence in themselves/ " 

Monsignor Hawes went on to describe two ways of looking 



126 The Hermit of Cat Island 

at the missionary and apostolic life from the point of view of 
the priest or religious: (1) The Way of Prudence and (2) 
The Way of Divine Folly. He was absolutely sure that he had 
been called to give up the former, which he had adopted for 
many years because he had not been courageous enough to 
try the latter. It was just a matter of vocation. Now he knew 
that he had been called toward the contemplative and ere 
mitical life. God had shown him the way; he dared not turn 
back to the way of prudence. He confessed on paper: "I am a 
priest of God but not a man of God. I have not been a man of 
prayer. I am a well without water, a fountain dried up, 
self-centered, self-seeking, a lover of pleasures, recreation, ease 
and comfort; immersed in outward activities. The ears of my 
soul are stopped up with active works lest I should halt and 
listen* What pleases me or serves my ends I labor for, espe 
cially architecture, with an intensity and devotion that looks 
like fervor. I love work more than all else. I look at the life of 
a St Francis of Assisi, or a Charles de Foucauld, and either 
such lives as theirs are an illusion, or else mine is! 

"Be courageous. Those holy saints I admire; sinner, miser 
able sinner and backslider as I am, I will start to try to imi 
tate them in their love of solitude, silence, abnegation and 
penance. When, and not until after, I have done this will I 
know whether there is any definite work for me to do among 
others. Come ye apart into a desert place and rest awhile; to 
rest (not the body) but the soul, to refresh it. Put ye on the 
Lord Jesus Christ, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in 
me/ " 

So on December 28 he returned to Nassau on the mail boat. 
Here he found a letter saying that the storekeeper on Cat 
Island was prepared to sell five acres of land on the top of 
Coma Hill, as well as the block with a ruined house which 
would do as a church. Bishop Bernard raised no objections. 
The Monsignor went on praying that it would not be long 



Cat Island 127 

before he had found a place apart in the wilderness to go to, 
and where he might come nearer to God. 

On the last day of the year 1939 he noted in his diary that 
his hermitage must be called "La Verna, because it is the 
highest hill in all the Bahamas, and must be consecrated to 
God, It must be a beacon, a holy place in the keeping of His 
Church. Ara Coeli Monte Alvernia" 

He recognized that conditions were very different from 
those in the days when penitents and solitaries went out into 
the mountains or woods and built their cells where they 
fancied. Now, if you wanted to camp in the middle of a lonely 
place you must find the owners and get the title deeds and 
have the ground surveyed. Blessed Bernard of Quintavalle, 
the first disciple of St. Francis, got rid of his house and all his 
earthly possessions on the very same day. But Monsignor 
Hawes, after nearly five months of negotiations with his law 
yer, still had not managed to wind up his affairs, including 
the selling of his railroad shares and other investments. What 
worried him most was an annuity he could not rid himself 
of that. He decided that all he could do was to arrange for 
the money to be paid to Bishop Bernard, and ask him to make 
use of it for charitable purposes, and at the same time to give 
the hermit such alms as would be needed to disburse among 
the poor, or for carrying on public worship. A visit to the 
leper settlement across the south side of the island of New 
Providence gave Monsignor Hawes further inspiration for 
imitating the life of St. Francis in the most literal manner pos 
sible. 

On December 30 he drew up yet another series of good 
resolutions, confessing that he could not resist looking back 
almost daily, and wishing he could return to his easy, com 
fortable existence in Australia. There was still time to change 
his mind and inform Bishop O Collins that he realized he had 
made a mistake in thinking he was called to be a hermit. But 



128 The Hermit of Cat Island 

he knew he could not turn back, for Father Benedict William 
son, his spiritual director, had written from Rome: "Wel 
come to your new home and apostolate. I am sure in em 
bracing your life of real Franciscan poverty you are follow 
ing the call of God. It is a great vocation one this poor world 
needs more than all else." 

So Monsignor Hawes resolved, "The new life I am called to 
begin must be more hidden-solitary. To preach the Gospel in 
silence, living not only as a priest but as a hermit. Beati 
pauperes: that is the beatitude I want; and on a secluded 
hilltop, upraised as an altar, yet withdrawn from the habita 
tions of the settlement. I have now found a corner where I 
believe my soul will be well. Solitude, Poverty, Abjection, 
Obscurity. That is my vocation now, that of a Franciscan 
hermit. Charles de Foucauld was called to be a hermit and 
not a missionary/ yet laid the foundations of missionary work 
in the Sahara. If I live the life God shows me, I may bear 
fruit. It will be made clear to me what sort of missionary 
work (if any) I am to do. But I must not throw myself 
into the work, but wait for it to come to me from the 
Lord 

"Since I have not attained (and perhaps my temperament 
may not be suited) to that interior mortification that accepts 
with equal indifference all experiences whether pleasing or 
contrary to nature, therefore I return very gratefully into 
God s hands those gifts he has showered on me so plentifully 
in the past: the enjoyment and fellowship of my brother 
priests; human respect; the solace of horses and dogs; de 
light in my little car and driving it; and the absorbing inter 
est of architectural work . . . also minor things, but things to 
which we are apt to become enslaved. ... I fear that they 
may absorb me to such an extent as to deny me leisure or in 
spiration for that constant attendance upon the thought of 
God that the Christian who is striving after perfection, and 



Cat Island 129 

still more the priest, ought to have. This is the prime motive 
of St. Francis in his love of poverty." 

Then he recorded his New Year s resolutions for 1940: 
"I offer to Thee my God my soul and body as a reasonable 
holy and living sacrifice in union with that of my Saviour on 
the Cross and in the Mass. I wish to unite my intentions with 
those of Our Holy Father the Pope, Pius XII, especially for 
peace. He has offered his life to God for the peace of the 
world. I would likewise offer mine, poor and worthless as it 
is, but I have no desire to live no wish at all for a long life. 
I put myself absolutely in Thy Holy Hands, O Lord. I offer 
my life to live it in suffering or pain or disease, to accept 
anything Thou sendest me: rheumatism, cancer, blindness, 
stroke, drowning at sea, to become a leper. Give me absolute 
resignation to Thy will to be ready to accept disappoint 
ment, frustration of all my plans; misunderstanding from 
others. Fiat voluntas Tua" 

The first week of the new year dragged past slowly. It was 
a relief when Bishop Bernard told Monsignor Hawes that he 
wanted him to go to Long Island to give help to Father 
Arnold. For the time being he was to take charge of the settle 
ment at Deadman s Cay. But this was not to be until after 
Easter, so he could stay on Cat Island meantime. He calcu 
lated that coming and going from one island to the other 
would be expensive if he was dependent on the irregular and 
infrequent services of the mail boats. It would be more eco 
nomical to run a boat of his own, which he could sail with a 
colored boy to help him. He recalled that between 1909 and 
1911 he had sailed his own boat the Hispaniola up and down 
the coast of Long Island, and even once to Nassau. There was 
no reason why he should not adopt the same mode of trans 
port, even if he was now in his sixty-fourth year, and not 
quite so agile as he was as a young Anglican Franciscan mis 
sionary. . 



130 The Hermit of Cat Island 

What worried him was: could he, as a Franciscan hermit, 
vowed to holy poverty, become the owner of a boat? He wrote 
in his diary: "There is no way of getting from Cat Island to 
Long Island except by sea. One can do without a horse or a 
car and can walk. Our Lord and the apostles used to sail 
across the Sea of Galilee, even though they could have walked 
round by the coast as the crowd of people did. The boat 
would be for mission work, and as there are no Catholic 
stations yet on Cat Island, I can sleep in the boat a hermit 
age on the waves. But I regard it only as a temporary ex 
pedient until such time as I can settle down permanently on 
one or other of the islands and be rid of the necessity of cross 
ing. If I can settle on my miniature mountain top at the 
Bight of Cat Island ... all will be perfect." 

The maritime-minded Monsignor found out that Abaco 
was the best island for picking up a good boat. Many boats 
were built there for the sponge fisheries, and it was then the 
off season. Boats could be bought cheaply. He began to study 
books on navigation in the Bahamas, and smiled when one 
author informed him that "anyone condemned to travel regu 
larly on these waters goes in constant danger of his life." For 
practical reasons a boat was essential. It would enable him to 
carry all the tools and building materials needed for erecting 
the hermitage. They would not have to be dumped ashore at 
once. Again, if the boat should be caught becalmed and then 
struck by a gale on some open "tongue" of ocean, or stove 
in on the rocks of a lee shore, or run on a sunken reef, the 
seaman-priest would be safe in God s hands. "After all, one 
can be drowned but once, and it eliminates the funeral." At 
the end of these jottings came the prayer: "Our Lady Star of 
the Sea, I take refuge under thy mantle, there will I live and 
die. St. Nicholas, patron of sailors and St. Christopher, patron 
of travelers, pray for me." 

No time was wasted. On January 10, 1940, Monsignor 



Fra Jerome^ 

he Hermit of 

Cat Island 




Father Hawes 
and Dominie 
(1933) 



Monsignor Hawes 
(1938) 




John C. 

Hawes 

(1919) 



0?? a journey in Western Australia 





Cat Island 131 

Hawes boarded the mail boat Priscilla bound for Marsh 
Harbor, Abaco. His companion was a twenty-five-year-old 
colored man, Victor Fergusson, a good seaman who had been 
loafing around Nassau when the priest met him. A ship s 
compass was packed in the priest s bag because he hoped to 
return in a sailing boat if he managed to find one that 
seemed suitable. He had also taken a papal flag and a red 
ensign, given him by Mr, Selby-HalL The following day, 
after examining several boats, he bought the Olga for forty- 
five pounds cash down. This sum included a well-built 
dinghy. In his diary were noted most carefully the measure 
ment of the boat, which was twenty-two feet over all, with 
an eight-foot beam. Having purchased a cracked Dutch oven, 
a quart of corn grits and a loaf of bread, filled up the water 
keg and put his suitcase aboard, the Monsignor told Victor 
to up anchor, and the Olga sailed at midday. 

Twelve pages of his diary are taken up with a detailed log 
of this first voyage of the Olga. It took nearly five days to 
make Nassau. Every change of wind is recorded, every shift 
ing of sail. One can picture the boat racing along as the big 
ocean waves loomed up behind and rolled under her, rising 
ahead like the serrated ridge of a mountain range. One can 
almost hear the wind whistling in the rigging and the flap 
ping of the sails. 

"We anchored the first night under the lee of Falcon 
Crags. Up anchor at dawn and sailed after breakfast of coffee 
and bread; anchoring again in a small sandy cove near the 
ruins of Wilson City, once flourishing lumber camp. Victor 
went ashore to get firewood, and filled three bags with sand 
for extra ballast. Then wind ahead, and short, heavy seas 
rolling in. Victor stood on the bowsprit to keep lookout for 
reefs and rocks while I steered. He could tell the depth of 
water to a nicety just by the different shades of color. At 
4:30 P.M. we ran into Cherokee Sound and anchored for the 



132 



The Hermit of Cat Island 



night. We slept on the bare boards with damp sand bags for 
pillows. Victor snored all night. I had a very stiff neck and 
rheumatic shoulder." 

The sailors spent two days in Cherokee Sound, hoping for 
a change of wind. At dawn each morning Monsignor Hawes 
celebrated Mass. He hoisted the papal flag on the mainmast 
and the red ensign over the stern. The altar stone and cloths 
were placed on the cabin top, while the celebrant stood in 
the hatch, facing forward. 

"It was so beautiful," he wrote, "so still, a pall of white 
mist over the land, with only the hilltops and the tops of the 




Mass Aboard the Roma 

forest trees visible above it. The sun rose as I came to the 
Sanctus. I said these Masses for peace, and for the conver 
sion of the Bahamas to the Faith, and for a blessing upon 
the inhabitants of the settlement at Cherokee Sound." 

Then it was discovered that the upper gudgeon of the 
rudder was worn to the thinness of a wedding ring. It 
would have been unsafe to risk putting to sea, so the Mon 
signor decided to wait until the next mail boat called, and 
get her to tow the Olga back to Nassau. To fill in the time, 



Cat Island 133 

he painted out the lettering on the stern, substituting ROM 
for OLG until the Olga became the Roma. But he grew 
tired of this delay, and having tied up the rudder head to the 
deck rings as a precaution, hoisted sail, and ran down the 
coast to the coconut palm-fringed bay, near which was the 
settlement of Crossing Rocks. 

A young man came out in a boat, and invited the visitors 
to come ashore with him. Such a welcome! In the ramshackle 
old Baptist chapel an informal concert was held that eve 
ning, with much clapping and loud applause. "Two young 
ladies, black as the stove, in great wide-brimmed feathered 
hats and smart frocks, sang a duet: *De wall it am so high you 
cannot get ober it; de wall am so low you cannot get under it; 
de wall am so wide you cannot get wound it. Only de Lord 
can let you in/ Apparently they referred to the New Jeru 
salem." 

The skipper and his mate once again boarded the Roma. 
Sixty-five miles of open ocean now lay between them and 
Nassau harbor, once they had passed "Hole-in-the-Wall" 
lighthouse, seven miles out of Cherokee. The wind dropped. 
Heavy black clouds hid the sun and obscured the land. A 
squall was not far off. 

"I called up Victor, who was asleep below, and we reefed 
the mainsail. Drops of rain. Sound of approaching wind 
and waves. Drenching downpour about 5 P.M. Three quarters 
of an hour to sunset, but almost dark already. The gale 
coming from right aft, due north. Heavy sea. Just the wind 
for Nassau, but pretty tough. Danger of jibbing, so lower 
mainsail more and haul in boom. An extra big wave crashes 
the dinghy (towecl behind) into Roma s stern, breaking its 
bow. The rebound of the rope with a terrific tug pulls the 
stem right out of the small boat. The wreck disappears in 
the inky darkness. A bad loss five pounds gone west. At any 
rate, we are safer now and make more speed. 



134 The Hermit of Cat Island 

"Then a big crash and flapping. Our jib tears away from 
the jib sheets. I go forrad and struggle with it. Get soused 
as waves break over the bow. Let go halyards and tie the jib 
down to the bowsprit. Far too busy and alert to feel sea 
sick! Pitch-dark night. No moon. No stars. Hurricane lamp 
(an old one left on the boat) goes out. I try, but fail to 
get it alight again, so can t see compass. Victor proves to be 
a splendid seaman absolutely fearless and never flurried, 
but he s now overcome by sleep, although he did have a nap 
in the afternoon. Young men need more sleep than we old 
fellows dol I ve had none since the previous night, and 
precious little then, owing to stiff neck. 

"We reef down some more of the mainsail, and I send 
Victor below at 11:30 P.M. There s a faint glow on the sky 
line right ahead. Deo gratias. Nassau light on the great con 
crete water tower, still about thirty miles away. How my 
eyes ache, fixing them on that glow. I see the light on the 
weather bow to starboard. Then, as a great white-crested 
roller heaves us up as it surges up and throws her stern 
round a bit, I see the light next right on the port bow 
beyond the edge of the mainsail, and have to wear away 
again to bring it back ahead on the starboard bow. One 
hallucination that pressed in on me continually was the im 
pression of a flat white plain lying beyond a solid black wall, 
with a pine-clad mountain rising on the right. The foam 
from the boat and the nearby curling sea horses showed up 
with a phosphorescent glow. 

"Deo grottos. Now the actual light itself (of the light 
house) appeared above the black, watery horizon. It was a 
fearful struggle to keep my eyes open; but how fascinating! 
I recalled those words of the Psalms and murmured to myself: 
*I am come into the depth of the sea; and a tempest hath 
overwhelmed me, . . . Thy way is in the sea, and thy paths 
in many waters Thou, who troublest the depths of the 



Cat Island 135 

sea, the noise of its waters/ I tried to pray to the God that 
rulest the power of the sea; and begged Him to appease the 
motion of the waves thereof. 

"One seemed very near the borderland of the other 
world, and quite indifferent, and without fear, as to whether 
one crossed over. In danger and hardship (amidst nature) 
one has an intuitive faith in the existence of God and the 
immortality of the soul. They that go down to the sea in 
ships, doing business in great waters, they shall see the 
works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep/ I was cer 
tainly beholding those wonders that night. 

"I had seen one day into another, and now one o clock, 
two o clock, and soon the lights of the town are visible, so I 
shout down the hatchway and call Victor up to give me a 
spell. My eyes are so tired. How we seem to be rushing on, 
nearer and nearer, and so many confusing lights in front. 
Victor knows his way in good pilot. When we get close to 
the lighthouse he stands forward and cons and I steer 
again. What a relief to get under the lee of the raging 
breakers on the bar! We have to jibe, and a big wave nearly 
sweeps us both off the deck. Now a peaceful run up to the 
anchorage among other boats under the lee of Hog Island. 
It s 3 A.M. After the loss of the dinghy, freed from its pull, 
the Roma must have made nearly eight knots (ten miles) 
an hour, f O Roma felix! Victor replies, God be thanked! 
He reckons the Roma is a bird! In die words of the Psalmist 
I say: They rejoiced because the Lord brought them to the 
haven which they wished for/ " 

This first of many adventurous voyages in the Roma re 
veals the character of the sixty-four-year-old priest and would- 
be hermit. The odyssey speaks for itself, and needs no com 
ment or explanation. The boat was beached for repainting 
and repairs and Bishop Bernard came down to inspect her. 
Everybody thought she had beautiful lines. As for her skip- 



136 The Hermit of Cat Island 

per, he suffered from a stiff neck and bad rheumatic pains for 
several weeks. 

About this time he wrote to a friend in Engknd that from 
now on he must be addressed as "Reverend Father Jerome," 
explaining that "there are no monsignori known on Cat 
Island; neither is there any such person known there by the 
name of Hawes or Reverend John or *J. C. Hawes/ " From 
this time he was known by the name that he stuck to for the 
rest of his life: "Fra Jerome." 

On February 1 he and Victor sailed at 4 A.M. for Cat Island, 
with about forty-seven miles of open sea ahead of them. The 
following morning he celebrated Mass at daybreak on the 
boat, having anchored the previous night in a little cove at 
West Shroud on Cistern Cay. The voyage took nearly four 
days, for the wind shifted continually. Again and again a 
great black wall would roll up, towering so steep that it looked 
as if it would break right over the little ship, but the Roma 
just slid up the steep slope. The hours went by slowly. Hot 
meals were out of the question. Fra Jerome and Victor were 
reduced to munching hard ship s biscuit. 

All day, as they sailed past Great Guana Cay, and went 
out east through Galliot Cut, the seas got rougher. They had 
to haul the new dinghy on board and lash it down on the 
weather side of the cabin trunk. The sun was hidden be 
neath an inky black sky. Both Fra Jerome and Victor were 
soaked through. Then the jib sheets tore away. It was not 
until after 9 P.M. on the night of February 3 that Victor 
caught sight of the lighthouse on Devil s Point, Cat Island. 
They ran into smoother water under the shelter of the land 
about midnight, but it was too dangerous to anchor. All they 
could do was cruise up and down until dawn. As soon as it 
was light enough Fra Jerome steered the Roma through the 
reef off Port Howe, where they anchored near the long, sandy 
shore. It was Sunday morning. 



Cat Island 137 

"We landed in the dinghy, I felt utterly weary and ex 
hausted; no meal since breakfast the previous day, but a 
swim restored me a bit. We rigged up an altar on two short 
bits of board, out of the dinghy s flooring, in the bush fring 
ing the shore. Here I celebrated Mass, facing east across the 
sparkling opal-green water of the harbor within the bar. To 
ward the end of Mass I saw another man standing beside 
Victor, gazing intently at me. I had avoided seeking the peo 
ple, but the Mass had brought them to me. The stranger be 
sought me to visit his settlement a few miles farther on. I 
went next morning, and he offered me a plot of land with 
an unfinished house on it, begun before his father died. So 
this was to be the first Catholic church on Cat Island. * 

Refreshed with a breakfast of hot black coffee, pancakes 
and bananas, the skipper and mate lay down for a well-earned 
sleep. Then in the afternoon, having hoisted the papal flag, 
they sailed on to Port Howe. "I stepped ashore in my tertiary 
habit," Fra Jerome wrote, "a plain, shapeless, sacklike gray 
tunic with the Franciscan cord, and a large crucifix hanging 
from it attached to the rosary beads. I was wearing sandals.* 
He was welcomed with open arms, and the people crowded 
around, begging him to "hold church" that evening. A Mrs. 
Deveaux offered the use of her fine eighteenth-century house 
for services. There was only one Catholic woman with her 
baby in the congregation. "I gave out some hymns that they 
all knew Rock of Ages/ Nearer, My God, to Thee, and 
Lead, Kindly Light/ They were sung very heartily. I 
preached on The Rock of Peter : the Church that Our 
Blessed Lord founded on St. Peter and the Apostles. A great 
many said they would like to become Catholics if I m going 
to remain on the island and if a Catholie church is built. 
Some of the people have friends or relatives in Nassau who 
are Catholics. Also they are acquainted with the good work 
done by the Benedictines in visiting the sick in the hospital, 



138 The Hermit of Cat Island 

and among the lepers. They seemed to know all about the 
good works of the Catholic Sisters of Charity in Nassau." 

By the end of a week more than enough people had come 
forward to make quite a big congregation, and Fra Jerome 
immediately began to give them simple religious instruc 
tions and to teach them a few hymns. A room in the Deveaux 
house served as his temporary quarters. His hostess, Mrs. 
Deveaux, a mulatto who was the second wife of the last of 
the line of Deveauxs, was much distressed because he refused 
to sleep in a bed and preferred the bare boards. But on the 
second night he compromised with a mattress stuffed with 
native grass, which proved very soft and comfortable. 

On Shrove Tuesday, February 6, Fra Jerome walked over 
land to the Bight, a distance of fourteen miles, carrying a 
small suitcase containing everything needed for Mass. That 
evening he met the three owners of the property that em 
braced Coma Hill and, after much bargaining, they agreed to 
sell eight acres for thirty-five pounds. Then, having borrowed 
a hurricane lamp and a blanket from Commissioner Wells, 
Fra Jerome found his way along the narrow, rocky path 
through the brush. There was starlight, but no moon. At 
last he reached the top of the hill, with much clambering 
over the rocks. He lay down on a narrow ledge of rock, partly 
sheltered by bushes, to sleep beneath the stars. 

"Ash Wednesday. At dawn I chose the most sheltered 
place I could from the wind a ledge of rock on the north 
west side of the summit. Here I laid out the altar stone, 
clothes, etc. I began with the Asperges, and walked round 
the site of the future oratory and blessed it, according to the 
directions given in the Roman Ritual Then I lit a little fire 
in a hole in the face of the rock beside my altar and burned 
some leaves and blessed the ashes. After this I celebrated 
Mass, standing barefooted, balanced on the upper edge of an 
overturned slab of rock. It was rather like saying Mass on the 



Cat Island 139 

topsail yardarm of a ship! What a glorious view I had right 
below and behind me land and sea, hills, woods and inland 
lakes." This diary entry marked the practical beginnings of 
Fra Jerome s eremitical existence. Now the hermit wasted 
no time in working out the details of the labor involved. 

February 13 he sailed the Roma up into the Bight, along 
side the jetty, and unloaded all her cargo, including eight 
bags of cement, tools, shovels, picks and crowbars. The people 
crowded around, eager to be given paid jobs. Work started 
at once. Some men widened the track of approach from the 
sea to Coma Hill; others using ponies "toted" up water, sand, 
lime, etc. There was plenty of work involved in clearing the 
brush from the summit and in constructing a water tank. 
Fra Jerome, his gray robes tucked up, sped from one group 
to another, giving directions, aid and encouragement. 

"The work begins at seven o clock," he wrote. "That 
means actually about 8 A.M. in the normal run of things. 
Then they knock off an hour for breakfast at nine, and again 
from 1 to 2 P.M. Finally they knock off about 4 P.M. according 
to the foreman s watch. According to mine it is often nearer 
three-thirty. . . . But what does it matter? They are dear, 
simple people and very willing. Our days are short: sunrise 
at six-thirty and sunset soon after six. I give them little 
presents of tobacco, and they present me with papaws, ba 
nanas, eggs, beans, peas, etc. I willingly give a day s work 
to some old man who talks a lot and does very littlel 

"I am also providing and endowing a school for the Dead- 
man s Cay people on Long Island, and paying for the mate 
rials to finish the little church at Baintown. I hope to have 
enough money to convert the old warehouse at Port Howe 
into a church, which will be a good-sized one. When my her 
mitage is built and all the money gone, then I can feel I am 
a real Franciscan. I will plant a little field of red corn (maize) 
below the hermitage, and grow some casavas, beans and peas, 



140 The Hermit of Cat Island 

and make my own tea of lime leaf, and be self-supporting 
as well as self-laboring/ 

For the first few days the architect clerk-of-the-works re 
turned each night to his floating hermitage, lying at anchor 
offshore, and slept on board. But after a strenuous day s 
work this was an exhausting process, and when one of the 
natives mentioned the existence of a large cave on the 
northern side of the summit with an entrance in a low cliff 
of rock, Fra Jerome went off at once to explore its possibil 
ities. It was even better than he had hoped, and he took pos 
session at once, dragging in tree branches to sleep upon and 
constructing a rough altar of loose rocks under a natural 
funnel-shaped skylight. Fra Jerome was delighted with this 
realization of such a Franciscanlike hermitage; enthralled 
with the view and the singing of the birds on his own hilltop, 
he felt transported to Mount Alvernia. 

Then almost immediately below the walls of his rough 
chapel he discovered a smaller cave, about twenty-five feet 
long, which he decided would make a perfect burial crypt. 
"Anyone coming up and finding a dead hermit has only to 
put the body on a board and shove it right into the far end 
of the cave, and then wall up the same with stones lying 
ready to hand," he wrote. "No coffin, no undertaker or 
funeral cortege, no trouble or expense to anyone. Every 
thing is wonderfully provided for." And, in the meantime, 
he could use the cave to store bags of cement. 

In spite of the joy the hermit felt in his anchoritelike dwell 
ing, physical discomfort kept him from any unrealistic con 
templation of his existence. When the wind was from the 
north, the big cave was very cold, and even clad in his habit 
and covered with a rug, Fra Jerome found sleep impossible. 
His insomnia was increased by the pain in his fingers, which 
were raw from the lime and cement and throbbed constantly. 
Then, too, the sandals he wore chafed his feet, which de- 



Cat Island 



141 



veloped sores during his long tramps to and from Port Howe. 
To make matters worse, he cut his head badly against a piece 
of jagged rock while he was readying his altar. 

Nevertheless, he was at peace with his world when on 
February 2? he celebrated his jubilee Mass in his cave 




Jubilee Mass in the Cave 

chapeL Standing before the rough altar, with twenty-five 
years of the priesthood behind him, he had a mental picture 
of how this jubilee Mass might have been celebrated if his 
life had taken a different course a picture that he translated 
to paper at the first opportunity. 

The jubilee Mass was but a momentary interruption of 
Fra Jerome s labors, however. He threw himself into the 
completion of the hermitage and by the end of March a tiny 
four-foot-square kitchen had been started and a small wooden 
hut erected. The hermit made himself a table and bunk and, 
now that the land crabs were on the move again, took to 
sleeping in this "cabin." The walls of his cell rose rapidly, 



142 The Hermit of Cat Island 

supporting, like the kitchen, a domed roof, and on April 2 
he finished off the gateway in the boundary wall with two 
circular lettered medallions surmounted by a cross. 

What with the dirt and heat Fra Jerome was having an 
uncomfortable time of it. He complained of his unkempt 
beard, remarking that "The only thing to be said for a beard 
out here is that the mosquitoes evidently have the same 
opinion of it as I have, and it prevents them from biting my 
face/ He disparaged himself as "a disheveled, dirty, horrid- 
looking old man, just like a moldy Coptic monk in the streets 
of Jerusalem* My skin, face, arms, hands have turned a choc 
olate color with the dust and dirt off the building, and the 
sweat in the heat mixes it into an indelible grease. No matter 
how hard I scrub with soap and water, or bathe in the sea, 
I can t get it off." Water was scarce, too and expensive if 
one lived on a hilltop as Fra Jerome did and had to pay to 
have it brought up by mule. He began to long for a good 
downpour to fill his cistern. 

But he was not to be discouraged by such trivial disad 
vantages. By the Feast of Pentecost his oratory was finished 
and the first Mass was said in it three days later. Then heat 
and overwork took their toll. Fra Jerome found himself pros 
trate from exhaustion and was out of action for a week, un 
able to eat or sleep. "I am growing old and worn out," he 
confided to his diary. "After a few spasmodic flashes of 
energy, I won t be able to stand up to things. ... I am so 
utterly tired and exhausted. All I want to do is to lie down 
and sleep." 

He pulled himself together in spite of his fatigue and by 
January had completed the rock steps and the Way of the 
Cross which he had began earlier and whose most imposing 
station was the twelfth: a twelve-foot crucifix of which the 
figure had been cut from a sheet of iron and painted. On 
Good Friday of 1941 a large crowd gathered to make the 



Cat Island 143 

stations and the hermit passed out holy pictures to all his 
friends and assistants. Then he transformed the wooden hut 
into a guesthouse for his first visitor, Father Callahan from 
San Salvador, whom he described as "a tough old- missionary 
who has fallen in love with Mount Alvernia." 

The natives did not share Fra Jerome s unbounded de 
light in his spare quarters. One afternoon, he reports, as he 
was working on the construction of the kitchen, "a Negro 
woman full of curiosity went inside. I heard her laugh and 
say: What sort of a building dis? A young man who was 
clearing away the debris on the floor replied: *A prison cell, 
I guess! So to the natives it appeared as Carceri, i.e., prisons." 

He himself admitted that there were times when the soli 
tude frightened him, especially during a gale when the wind 
moaned, howled and whistled around the hermitage, sound 
ing like human voices outside the window* Again, lying on 
his palm-leaf mat within the arched recess on a breathless, 
steaming night of July or August, he sometimes suffered from 
hallucinations. The sight of a bush or an old tree stump in 
the darkness brought alarming visions of an old woman squat 
ting down on the other side of the grass plot or a bent old man 
coming up the path, 

But these were small things. The real discomforts arose 
from the construction of the hermitage itself. Fra Jerome 
had not foreseen that the rough, unplastered walls would 
harbor insects in their many cracks and crevices, and he was 
plagued by ants, centipedes, scorpions and hog lice, even 
occasionally by a large, black, furry, tarantula spider. More 
over, the rough walls absorbed the dampness of the atmos 
phere and many a morning when he awoke Fra Jerome s 
habit would be almost wet. "The place has quite the old smell 
of the Roman catacombs!" he noted. "But as I have built 
it, so it must stand and remain just as it is for me, at any 
rate. 



144 The Hermit of Cat Island 

"What a luxury smooth white walls would be, and how I 
long for a floor that I could really sweep decently clean! One 
luxury I have, and am very thankful for, that is the wire 
mosquito-fly netting screens to the windows and doors. With 
out these life in midsummer would be almost unsupportable 
except for a completely mortified ascetic. The windows have 
fly screen inside and wooden shutters outside, but no glass. 
When a storm is raging and the wind keeps shifting all 
around, one has to shut up every window, so the little place 
is in almost complete darkness, to keep the rain out. The 
roof domes are quite waterproof, but the moisture seeps 
through the porous stonework of the side walls, thick as they 
are, and runs down in many places." 

One consolation to Fra Jerome s aesthetic sense was that 
within a year or so the clifHike declivity in front of the 
hermitage became a little garden, sprawling with brilliant 
tropical shrubs and flowers of varying shades, predominantly 
scarlet and purple. Before long the flowering creepers 
climbed over the jagged rocks to the base of the weather- 
stained stone walls so that it was hard to say where God s rock 
ended and man s masonry began. 

The steep, narrow, winding path prohibited any automo 
bile or motorcycle from coming near the hermitage. Fra 
Jerome maintained that it was a relief to be free from all 
the exasperating gadgets of so-called modern progress. He 
had no telephone, no radio, no electric light, no water pipes, 
no gas-pressure lamps or stove only the companionable 
flames of a flickering wood fire in the open stone fireplace 
in the little kitchen. 

He could look around his hermitage with satisfaction, for 
it represented an isolation and an eclectic architectural in 
spiration that pleased the demands of his personality. Bits 
and corners of the churches he had loved best had found 
their way into his dwelling: the barrel vault of rough stones 



Cat Island 



145 



from the ancient priory church of Caldey as well as the hole 
in the wall with a little chimney on the gospel side of the altar 
where he placed the sanctuary lamp; the stone altar patterned 
after the one Fra Jerome himself had built at Caldey; the 
wooden stall where he recited his office from those found in 
Carthusian cells. And of course the influence of the primitive 
Franciscan hermitages in Umbria and Tuscany was evident 
in the whole layout of the hermitage in the way it appeared 
to have grown out of the natural rock rather than having 
been built upon it. The sketches and rough plans in Fra 
Jerome s diary indicate the many modifications that eventu 
ally resulted in the picturesque and brilliant pastiche that 
his hermitage became. There is nothing quite like it in the 
world. 




Mount Alvernia Hermitage 



9. 



Island Priest [1940-19433 



WHILE the Cat Island building operations were going on, Fra 
Jerome found plenty of opportunity for seagoing adventures 
in the Roma as he sailed from island to island, making contact 
with the unsophisticated islanders and recording his vivid im 
pressions of treacherous seas and tropical scenery. He made 
plans to spend his first Holy Week in the Bahamas on Long 
Island, and on a perfect cloudless morning he and Victor set 
out in the boat. Soon the sky turned dark and murky, huge 
Atlantic rollers broke over the Roma, sousing the sailors, and 
before long they had lost their bearings altogether. It was 
the next morning before they sighted land about seventeen 
miles away the precipitous cays and forbidding rocks of 
Conception Island, 

Fra Jerome headed the boat toward the island so that he 
could say his Palm Sunday Mass on shore, but the sea was 
too rough to make a landing and they were forced to go on 
until they reached a barren tip of Long Island. Here Fra 
Jerome rigged up his altar among the mangrove bushes and 
celebrated Mass; then he and Victor fell famished upon a 
strange breakfast of coffee and bananas. They wasted no time 
in launching the Roma again, but in spite of expert naviga- 

146 



On Mount A hernia 



The Hermita.se, Cat Island 




Laying of the 
Foundation Stone of 
St. Augustine s Abbey, 
Nassau (1946) 



Lower left: 

St. Francis of Assist, 

Old Bight (Interior) 



Lower right: 

Church of the 

Holy Redeemer, Freet 







Island Priest 147 

tion it was Wednesday evening before they sailed into the 
lagoon at Deadman s Cay. 

Fia Jerome had always reveled in liturgical ceremonies, 
and here in the Bahamas he had ample opportunity to indulge 
his enthusiasm. The Benedictines in the islands, as part of 
their missionary technique, had encouraged the faithful to 
participate actively in public worship; consequently the 
people even the children answered the prayers of the Mass 
in Latin, directed by a trained leader. Most of them, de 
spite the fact that they could not read, had memorized the 
prayers and could sing the entire Common of the Mass. 

On Easter morning Fra Jerome was backed by his entire 
congregation singing the Missa Cantata, preceded by an in 
cense-swathed procession around the church during which 
the people shook the rafters with the alleluias of the hymns. 
"My word! You should hear these people sing," he wrote. 
"The whole congregation, not frightened of hearing their 
own voices, and so very musical and harmonious. One could 
never get Catholics in Australia to sing; only a small select 
choir." 

The hermit had many confessions to hear at Deadman s 
Cay and he had also to take Holy Communion to the sick, 
"with full ceremony down the road altar boys, candles and 
bell. There was one dear old lady who, although very sick, 
got up and dressed and knelt with her black forehead rest 
ing on the floor boards." It was easy to feel a deep affection 
for these people, and Fra Jerome said good-by to them regret 
fully when he and Victor stepped aboard the Roma on the 
Tuesday after Easter. 

Almost immediately they encountered more stormy wea 
ther, and the boat got stuck on a sandbank in Blue Hole Chan 
nel, where she ran in for shelter. After three hours she was 
afloat again, but the grapnel would not come up, having got 



148 The Hermit of Cat Island 

fastened under a ledge of rock. "It was only five feet depth of 
water," Fra Jerome explained. "I undressed and dived down, 
and struggled with the heavy iron under water until my breath 
gave out. I made three attempts, and then Victor stripped, 
too, and we both dived under and tugged until at last the 
grapnel came out with such a jerk that we both fell back 
ward into the water, and had to make haste to clamber up on 
to the Roma again by the bowsprit stay. Not bad work for an 
old rheumatic clergyman of sixty-four!" 

Strong winds drove the boat off her course, but eventually 
she made Port Howe, where Fra Jerome took a night s rest 
in an empty room of the old haunted house of the extinct De- 
veaux family. Instead of ghosts, some very noisy rats disturbed 
his slumbers. Then, after skirting the coast with a favorable 
wind for thirty-four miles, he returned safely to the Bight* 

In April 1940 Victor Fergusson returned to Nassau and 
Felix Darville, son of the catechist at Deadman s Cay, took his 
place as general factotum. A second little wooden hut was 
built for him on Mount Alvernia. Fra Jerome soon discovered 
that Felix was not nearly so reliable as Victor, and his dis 
illusionment was expressed in a general way in his diary. 

"The colored people are unfathomable. . . . When I first 
came to the West Indies in January 1909, the deep sympathy 
I felt for the colored people, from freshly reading Uncle 
Tom s Cabin, had made the Negro an object of romantic in 
terest to me. I thought more of them than of the poor white 
people out here. Returning to the Bahamas, I now find I am 
troubled with a feeling of aversion to the Negro. May God 
forgive me! Their aspects, manners, speech, intonation . . . 
repel me. Yet they are our own brethren, one in Christ dear 
to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Charity is no natural virtue, but 
a gift from God. How selfish and uncharitable I am, alas! 
O Lord, give me Charity infuse into my poor cold heart that 
love for my fellow men that I don t feel for them. Am I un- 



Island Priest 149 

social and misanthropic? I want to be a Franciscan! St. 
Francis kissed the lepers sores. / shudder to shake hands with 
some dirty and deformed black paw held out to me. I am 
bitten with the modern notions over carefulness and fastidi 
ousness about hygiene, etc." 

These sentiments, so unlike the hermit s later attitude to 
ward his flock, stemmed partly from a certain homesickness 
for Australia that he had not yet conquered. "I feel absolutely 
no vocation to work on these islands, nor do I see any real 
need," he confessed. "Bishop Bernard wants me to work on 
Long Island or Eleuthera rather than on Cat Island ... he 
points out in his letters that at the present time he cannot em 
bark on opening new missions. He has neither priests nor 
money to spare. All I can do is to look after my few poor faith 
ful catechumens. I shall be so glad when all building is com 
pleted on Mount Alvernia. Then I can send Felix home, lay 
up the boat, and be absolutely solitary on my lonely hilltop." 

Fra Jerome had good reason for wanting to send Felix home. 
Not only was the unfortunate boy subject to epileptic seiz 
ures, but he was far too fond of rum and proved more than 
once that he was not a safe mate to have on the Roma. By 
June Fra Jerome had had enough. He resolved to send Felix 
back to his father and persuade Victor to return. 

Victor, by this time, had become engaged to one of the Cat 
Island girls and both of them wished to become Catholics. He 
was pleased at the prospect of once again becoming the her 
mit s shipmate. Not only did he take charge of the boat, but 
he worked as a builder s laborer, cooked a midday meal for 
the priest, and looked after the old pack horse that carried 
loads of sand and cement to the summit of Mount Alvernia. 
Fra Jerome had indeed found himself an ideal helper. 

In the meantime the catechumens at Port Howe had started 
to build a church and when it was ready Fra Jerome got per 
mission from the Bishop to say the first Mass facing the people 



150 



The Hermit of Cat Island 



so that "in this way I can keep an eye on them and say: Stand/ 
Sit/ Kneel and so on/* He described the interior o the 
church as having a tabernacle on a little altar behind the 
celebrant with screen gates kept locked when Mass was not 
being celebrated and "curtains drawn across during Mass, as 
the priest has his back to the tabernacle and this saves genu 
flecting* I carpentered and painted a six-foot-long cross. It 
is now hung up in the new church/* 

During the summer of 1941, while Fra Jerome was engaged 
on the construction of a church at Freetown at the Bight, his 
days followed a regular pattern that would have felled an or 
dinary man. "I say Mass about 4 A.M. (first streak of dawn in 
the sky). Prime, Terce, after which I gather sticks, light fire 




CoU 6ab out on UK 



Island Priest 151 

and pump up water/ He then describes his "one recreation 
and luxury," a daily cold tub between Mass and breakfast 
out on the smooth green lawn behind the chapel, the hermit 
vigorously scrubbing his back to the accompaniment of bird 
song. "Even if a solitary snake slithers across the carpet, for 
once you feel ready to hail him as your little brother/ " 

Then a breakfast of cereal or grapefruit, "a bunch of bread 
and cheese" in hand for lunch, and the hermit was off down 
the hill to Freetown to begin work at 7:00 A.M. Invariably he 
carried with him little packets of corn, coffee beans or sugar 
for some poor old woman. He might arrive at the building site 
"to find that one of the two masons has got his wall horribly 
askew and out of the perpendicular. So I have to settle jeal 
ousies between them. At last I get down to my particular job 
of building one of the round twenty-four-inch diameter col 
umns. Hot sun tempts me to lay down my trowel and say I 
can t work any more." 

After a swim in the sea just before noon and lunch at the 
beach, the old priest would return to his masonry until four 
o clock; then the long walk home over the narrow, rocky 
path."When I begin the ascent of the hill I am often so dead 
beat that I can hardly get along. Dripping with sweat, pass 
ing through the gateway, and arriving at the cross paths, I be 
gin the stations (very short prayers) as I struggle up the steep 
path of loose white stones, then the zigzag flights of rock steps. 
Remove hat and genuflect at each station. At the twelfth I 
kiss the foot of the big cross. Having arrived at the top, I 
make a brief visit to the Blessed Sacrament, kneeling at the 
oratory door. 

"Then, rounding the tower, where there is always a re 
freshing cool breeze, I sit on the steps of the doorway for a few 
moments in the shade, drinking in the beauty of the vast 
stretch of blue Atlantic Ocean. Sometimes (very rarely) a 
ship a Canadian freighter going to Cuba. Very often I take 



152 The Hermit of Cat Island 

another fresh-water bath (the third bath of the day) before 
drawing more water to quench the thirst of the young fruit 
trees, hibiscus and bougainvilleas. Then I light a fire, ring the 
six-o clock Angelus, drink a lot of tea (sometimes three or 
four potfuls), eat some dry bread and a few bananas. 

"After this I lie down on my bed about 7. P.M. I wake up 
fresh and alert around about midnight, walk out on the lawn 
to gaze on the beauty of the moon or the starlight tropical 
night. Then on entering the oratory I light the hurricane 
lamp and say Matins and Lauds. Having made a meditation, 
I return to the cell and sleep again until about four. I make 
no attempt to fight against sleep as many of the saints did, be 
cause I suppose their particular vocation was to do penance 
in that way. 

"I can only say: Welcome, Sister Sleep! Holy Sleep, come 
to me a sinner. One day, one blessed night, you will come in 
festal array to me. You will come to me as Abiding Sleep 
Rest Eternal. You will close the door on the repellent vision 
of the life of this world, with all its insincerity, stupidity and 
cruelty. You will open the door for your pale brother who will 
stand on the threshold waiting to be greeted with quiet 
joy. . . . O Death, true friend, it is consoling that I cannot 
escape you. You will take the Breviary, or the ax and trowel 
from my hand, and the working overalls from my body. But 
meanwhile I must try to carry on my work cheerfully eat 
ing, sleeping, and journeying as a penance. I must not make 
a lugubrious burden of the communing of my soul with my 
Creator and Redeemer!" 

Fra Jerome was growing so weary of these almost daily 
walks down the hill to the Bight and up again that he resolved 
that once the Freetown church was completed he would 
"never, never touch a trowel, ax or modeling tool again." To 
walk even a mile through those narrow, winding jungle tracks 
over rough, uneven, jagged rocks underfoot was more of a 



Island Priest 153 

strain than five miles on a good, straight, smooth road. After 
rain there were pools of water on the tracks, and one got 
soaked from the wet branches of bushes and trees. 

But he was delighted at the great crowd that turned out for 
the laying of the foundation stone on Laetare Sunday, March 
23, 1941. The people filled the air with little cries of admira 
tion and pride at the sight of the walls of their church going 
up and were sure that it would not be nearly big enough for 
all who would want "to join and give in their names to be 
come members/* 

The following month the hermit s labors were pleasantly 
interrupted by a visit from His Royal Highness, the Duke of 
Windsor, then Governor of the Bahamas. "I had a chat with 
him," wrote Fra Jerome, "walking along the sea-front road. 
We discussed Australia and his railway accident in Western 
Australia, and went on to speak of horses, dogs and archi 
tecture. He is very nice and very well informed on all sub 
jects so simple and unaffected. He was dressed in an old 
blue yachting suit and looked like the second mate of a yacht. 
He was much taken with the distant view of the hermitage 
and chapel. * 

The Duke and the hermit went on to discuss Fra Jerome s 
birthplace and his architectural studies, and the former spoke 
of Father Arnold s work on Long Island and of what an ex 
pert "doctor, dentist and builder he was/ Fra Jerome was 
pleased at the Governor s admiration for St. Paul s Church in 
Clarence Town, especially his remark that "it looked so fine 
on the hill with its two west towers, just suiting the place. 
Tm glad you like it, sir/ I said, I built it thirty years ago 
when an Anglican clergyman, just before I left the Bahamas 
to become a Catholic/ The Duke then asked me what Order 
I belonged to and I told him I was a Franciscan tertiary. He 
showed me his three little dogs. A man was exercising them 
ashore/ Fra Jerome was evidently delighted by this en- 



154 The Hermit of Cat Island 

counter with someone with whom he could again talk horses 
and dogs* 

The hermit had by no means abandoned his voyages in the 
Roma during this period. He describes the "absolute confi 
dence" he had in Victor, especially when sailing past Devil s 
Point against a head wind. The young man would stand on 
the bowsprit and call out "Luff a bit ... hard a port , , . keep 
off hard a* starboard" until the danger was past. Once sail 
ing in deep water the boat swung round and her skipper 
shuddered as he saw a brown-green patch with a claw of 
jagged rock sticking out above the water less than ten yards 
away from them. On another occasion the Roma was escorted 
by a school of porpoises whose playfulness was a novelty after 
the usual dangers that confronted them, 

One stormy voyage to Long Island was undertaken to pick 
up Father Cornelius Osendorf who came to spend a week at 
the hermitage. Fra Jerome realized that his guest was being 
forced to live under conditions too primitive and made up 
his mind that he must have a small cloister and guest cell. He 
felt that better accommodations were in order for the Bene 
dictines who might come to Cat Island after his death, and 
when there was no visitor, "the hermit can use the room him 
self to get better nights rest." This mitigation of his asceticism 
gave him some uneasy moments, but he excused it on the 
grounds that his bunk beneath the window sill was so hot 
and airless in the summer, so damp in wet weather. Above 
all, he was constantly pestered with hog lice. "I love and hold 

in high esteem that most Franciscanlike of all the saints 

Benedict Joseph Labre," he wrote, "but his own particular 
and peculiar vocation is not to be emulated in the toleration 
of vermin. I turn to another of the saints St. Bernard of 
Clairvaux who says: 1 have loved poverty, but I never loved 
filth/ and likewise St. Teresa of Avila." 
Suddenly, in October 1941, the full fury of a hurricane hit 



Island Priest 155 

Mount Alvernia, and for the first time Fra Jerome realized 
what damage could be done by the force of the winds. At 
dawn on October 5, when the hermit went down to Freetown 
to hear confession and celebrate Mass, the sky was overcast. 
The men working on the jetty warned him that a storm was 
approaching and begged him not to try to return home, but 
he refused to listen. As he struggled up the steep slope, the 
wind from the north had increased so much that he had to 
stoop down and cling to the steps with his hands. When at 
last he reached the hermitage, he was nearly blown off his 
feet, and it was all he could do to pull the door open and get 
inside. But "the hurricane hadn t begun yet. These were 
only preliminary puffs." The hermit lit a fire, boiled some 
coffee and porridge, and read some of the newspapers received 
in his last mail. It was impossible, however, to ignore the ele 
mental upheaval. 

"The roar of the wind outside was now terrific. I crawled 
through the low hatchway in the back of the vestment press 
into the oratory, to pray for the poor people below. I knew 
their badly built houses couldn t stand this long. After two 
hours came a lull this was the center of the hurricane pass 
ing over The first blow had come from the northeast, but 

as the cyclone passed over us in a northwesterly direction, we 
now got a battering from the opposite circumference of the 
moving circle from the southwest. 

"The second act was far worse than the first. When the ter 
rible roar died away and the swirling mists of rain and sea 
water cleared away, I looked down on a scene of desolation. 
From a fresh, verdant green the face of the land was turned to 
a dull brown, as if it had been burned with fire. Big trees lay 
flat; bushes stripped bare of their leaves. Buildings roofless 
or nonexistent. My church roof had gone and only gaunt, 
lagged arches stood out, the gables on them torn off with the 
shaking. Mount Alvernia, exposed more than any other place 



156 The Hermit of Cat Island 

to the full blast of the hurricane, carried its little buildings 
intact, but the low wooden (guesthouse) cabin was slewed 
right round on its foundations from northeast to east. Even 
more amazing that the big wooden crucifix on the Way of the 
Cross stood unharmed." 

When at last Fra Jerome was able to descend the hill to 
Freetown, he found that a number of people had taken refuge 
in the sacristy of the church after their houses had been laid 
low. Several vessels had been caught in the gale and were 
never seen again, while others had had narrow escapes and 
were thrown up onto the land. As for the Roma, she capsized, 
sank and remained safely protected under water from the 
violence of the storm. All the natives declared excitedly that 
this was the worst hurricane within living memory that had 
ever struck Cat Island even though it lasted only four hours. 
The force of the wind had been more than two hundred miles 
an hour. 

Of the other islands San Salvador was the only one that had 
been badly hit. There were very few people on that island 
who had not lost almost all their possessions, yet there was no 
moaning and groaning, but only, "Tank de good Lord he 
spared life; if it had come in the night, lots would have been 
killed." The church was a sad ruin with all the east wall torn 
down and broken masonry everywhere, but the damage done 
was nothing compared with the havoc wrought in the Angli 
can and Baptist chapels. Bishop Bernard lost no time coming 
to the relief of the people with a generous supply of corn, 
sugar, flour and clothing. The government sent over a ship 
load of lumber, shingles and cement for rebuilding the 
houses. So there was plenty of work and pay and food for 
some four months afterward. The local sloops and other sail 
boats could not be back and off fast enough with their piled- 
up cargoes. 

"Well! That is my first hurricane," wrote Fra Jerome. "I 



Island Priest 157 

don t know but that we might get another this month; some 
times another follows on after only a short interval. Isn t 
there some old saying: Troubles or is it bears walk in 
pairs? The cheerfulness, patience, fortitude and resignation 
of the people are quite wonderful. No complaints, but grati 
tude to God that it was not worse and that He took care of 
them through all the terror." 

The impression made by the hurricane on the local re 
ligious attitude was amusingly brought home to Fra Jerome 
by an old black woman, Henrietta, one of his stanchest 
parishioners. She was an invalid and lived with her sister in 
a little one-room house with a palm-thatched roof, but her 
missionary efforts extended to her neighbors. 

"I found Henrietta sitting on a tree trunk, holding forth 
to a little crowd," Fra Jerome records. "So I greeted them 
and sat down on a rock, while Henrietta went on with her 
sermon. It s beautiful, de Karthlic Church. I wish I d been 
a Karthlic since I was five years old. It s all those years wasted, 
wasted. Why did de Lord send the hurricane to knock all de 
people s houses down? It s cos of their wicked goings-on, I 
tell yer. De Lord, He punish them, but He spare my poor old 
house, cos I all day serve de Lord in it and pray. Dese other 
so<all churches let you do what you like, but de Karthlic 
Church is strict, very strict, an you got to keep de rules. Jesus 
Christ was a Roman Karthlic. I can report her little sermon 
accurately, and without any embellishment, because I jotted 
her words down as soon as I got home. 

"At the midnight Mass the first one in the new church 
during the Adeste Fideles, my eye happened to fall on Hen 
rietta in a front bench, and her poor old black face was really 
transfigured something extraordinary and beautiful in it. 
I am not sensible generally of seeing the people at all, but I 
suppose it was just after the Priest s Communion, and I was 
looking to see if those for Holy Communion were making a 



158 The Hermit of Cat Island 

move up to the altar rails, or I had to sign to the altar boy to 
tell them. The zealous server had rung his little bell so many 
extra times in fact, almost every time I genuflected so the 
people could hardly tell from the bell which was the Domine, 
non sum dignus" 

That midnight Mass of Christmas 1941 seems to have given 
Fra Jerome great happiness. Of baptized Catholics there were 
still only twenty-two, but all received Holy Communion. On 
the morning of Christmas Eve he had baptized a dozen elderly 
catechumens, all of whom had attended Sunday Mass regu 
larly for a year. He was never tired of writing about the won 
derful singing, and the people made good use of the West 
minster Hymnals sent out from England. Moreover, they had 
grown quite accustomed to afternoon Vespers in English, 
and reveled in chanting the Psalms, even more so the Litany 
of Loreto at Benediction, where they responded lustily Ora 
pro nobis to every invocation. 

In February 1942 Father Leonard Hagarty, O.S.B., gave a 
fortnight s mission at Freetown. Fra Jerome wrote in his 
diary: "He was as good as any Redemptorist whole-time mis- 
sioner I ever heard in Australia. The people turned up well, 
and just loved Father Leonard whose very solid and thorough 
instructions were so easy to understand; bright and homely, 
too/* Father Leonard spent three days at the hermitage, and 
shortly thereafter Father Frederic Frey, O.S.B., came from 
Nassau for a week s rest and change. 

Lent at Freetown, with the stations of the cross on Wednes 
day, Saturday and Sunday evenings, was a strenuous time for 
Fra Jerome. He wrote that the people loved these services 
when they were carried out after dark by the light of hurri 
cane lamps only. "There are always loud groans and sighs. 
Between times I saw an old woman talking aloud to herself. 
She went up to the eleventh station, and hit the executioners 



Island Priest 159 

in the picture, as the only way to show what she felt about 
them!" 

Lenten fare for the hermit consisted of his own specialty: 
a bread that he baked from a mixture of whole-wheat flour 
combined with the locally grown Indian corn flour to which 
he added Quaker Oats or Kellogg s Corn Flakes and a dash of 
brown sugar and baking powder, Although he described him 
self as "a very accomplished baker," he also admitted that 
often, having placed his loaf in the Dutch oven, he would go 
off to write a letter and be recalled to the business at hand 
only by the smell of burning. In spite of what he ruefully de 
scribed as a "quarter inch of charcoal biscuit on top and bot 
tom," Fra Jerome insisted that it was "very nourishing bread 
and needs no butter or marmalade," its only drawbacks being 
that "sometimes one has to cut it with a hatchet*" 

Fra Jerome, like the other clergymen of the Bahamas, went 
to Nassau in July for the annual priests retreat. There among 
his Benedictine friends he enjoyed the comparative luxuries 
of sitting down to prepared meals, drinking ice water, and 
"no washing up afterwards." He was introduced to turtle 
"meat" pies and wrote that he was having "quite a dissipated 
time . . . going out to dinner with the local naval boss, Com 
mander Langton-Jones . . . who is in charge of all the light 
houses in the Bahamas." The two men found many common 
interests, particularly dogs and seascapes, and the hermit was 
delighted to discover that the commander was familiar with 
all the Australian ports. The naval officer told Fra Jerome of 
a book he was writing about the Bahama lighthouses and the 
many stories of pirates in Bahamian waters, and the old her 
mit sat fascinated long past his normal hour for retiring. 

Fra Jerome s chief concern at this time was ridding himself 
finally and forever of all his worldly possessions. He had sold 
out the last of his investments and handed over the proceeds 
to the Vicar Apostolic of the Bahamas; the Hermitage had 



160 The Hermit of Cat Island 

been made the absolute property of the Benedictines. All that 
remained was an annuity of one hundred and twenty pounds 
which he was unable to dispose of, as the capital belonged to 
certain trustees. He consoled himself by remembering that 
St. Francis had allowed tertiaries to retain a few necessary 
possessions. Nevertheless, he still had doubts. "What sort of 
a man of Gospel poverty is he who has a banking account 
even if it only stands at one pound, seventeen shillings, and is 
offset by a bill of one pound, two shillings, threepence owing 
for groceries? I have two pairs of sandals, my girdle and three 
habits, whereas it should only be one. Also I have a few 
cotton shirts and pajamas, but this year I have got accustomed 
to wearing my habit only without any shirt, with only white 
cotton drawers. Within these last three years since leaving 
Australia I have lightened my ship of three thousand pounds. 
Now at last I am really a poor man." 

Fra Jerome forgot that the Roma was another of his pos 
sessions from which he could not part, because she was es 
sential to his mission work. Writing in October 1942, he says, 
"Victor has just brought back the Roma to her customary 
smartness hull spotless snow-white, with bright red and 
blue lines, and red copper paint below the water line. 

" I love her as I do my own wife/ says Victor! Fortunately 
his wife does not need painting like the white ladies do! So 
a smart yellow cotton dress set off with scarlet bows is as good 
for her as a new mainsail is for the boat. It makes an artistic 
contrast with her chocolate-colored skin. A wide-brimmed 
palm-leaf hat is the topsail." 

Victor, who could afford to buy new frocks and hats for his 
wife, was better off than most of the island folk in 1942. 
World War II had made its mark even in these remote parts. 
German submarines had sunk several vessels in Bahamian 
waters. The cost of living rose steadily, and there was little or 
no work for the people on the out islands. Many were on the 



Island Priest 161 

verge of starvation. The supply of fish had run short; summer 
crops had failed; there were no bananas, plantains or other 
fruits, no work, and therefore no money to buy corn or flour. 
Families were forced to feed on roast land crabs supplemented 
by beans or cowpeas. 

Fra Jerome wrote home that he had seen young girls 
dressed only in old corn sacks and that even these were rare, 
hard to get and valuable. "It is no fault of the people they 
are not lazy and shiftless as some travelers say. Oh, they can 
live on very little; they are used to it! What I feel is that it is 
high time that they got used to a higher standard of living; 
why should these poor creatures never have anything better?" 

Haunted by the dire poverty and misery on Cat Island, the 
hermit resolved to add to his mortifications and penances. 
He limited himself to one full meal daily consisting usually 
of macaroni cooked with cheese, onion and tomato. But he 
wrote, "I still feel I fare much too well when I think of some 
of my poor people below the hill, and sumptuously as com 
pared with the meager diet of that mortified hermit, Charles 
de Foucauld, who took his meals on the ground without even 
a plate and only dipping his spoon into the saucepan or pot. 
Neither did the first Capuchin hermits have tables; they took 
their food on the floor no beds, no tables. In these degener 
ate days we shy at any sort of mortification. We are too 
pampered and fastidious." 

As a result he also decided to cut down his supper to "tea 
and bread with perhaps some peanut butter or marmalade; 
or just a bowl of hot soup and some bread; or oatmeal por 
ridge, or hominy with a little sugar and milk." But these 
ideas are blue-penciled out and over them in red is written: 
"Cut out supper." 

The natives often climbed the steep slopes of Mount 
Alvernia, knowing that he or she would have only to ask and 
be given whatever the hermit could spare. One day a tired- 



162 The Hermit of Cat Island 

looking old granny came laboring up the hill and sat down on 
a rock outside the chapel door, quite exhausted with the 
climb. "Good mornin*, Farder, good mornin ," she said. 

"Well, Uterpe, what has brought you up all this long way?" 
asked Fra Jerome. 

"Farder, I did want to speak to you. Farder, I se ashamed to 
ask you but you did tell us if things was bad and we had 
nothing, to come to you, and I got some sisal on the boat to 
send to Nassau to get me some flour, but got nothing now 
left in the house." 

"What did you have for breakfast, Uterpe?" 

"Farder, I didn t have nothin to have not a bite." So 
Fra Jerome mixed milk with the coffee in the pot, adding 
plenty of sugar, and gave old Uterpe a chunk of bread and 
two bananas to eat right away. Then he put some flour in a 
paper bag and some tobacco leaf, and wrote an order on the 
storekeeper for half a bushel of corn for the old lady, not 
forgetting to add lard and sugar. She departed happy, and full 
of gratitude- 
Then, finding himself alone, the hermit went into the ora 
tory to get on with his Office, but soon there was another 
"Mornin , Farder, is you dere?" and this visitor a poor man 
wanted medicine. 

"What for? What s the matter with you?" 

"Headache and fever can t sleep." 

Fra Jerome had to part with some of the few quinine pills 
and aspirin tablets left him. Now perhaps he would be able 
to proceed with his prayers. But no, looking down from the 
chapel door, he noticed a big straw hat bobbing about among 
the bushes this time a girl. Having arrived at the top of the 
hill, she said she wanted to sell some eggs. 

"How many have you got there, Esther May?" 

"Five, Farder." 

He gave her a sixpence, and sympathized with her on the 



Island Priest 163 

loss of a second baby, but warned her to "keep away from the 
men till you can get a good young man for a husband and get 
married. These eighteen months past you ve been very faith 
ful in coming to Mass, and I d like to baptize you, but I can t 
do so until you ve changed your life/ 

So young Esther May was dismissed, and departed down the 
hill with another sixpence. Once again the hermit made a 
fresh start on his interrupted Office, but he did not get much 
farther than a psalm or two. There was another call round 
the other side by the kitchen door: 

"Farder, Farder, are you in? . . ." 

Many of Fra Jerome s friends in England and Australia 
pictured him living in complete solitude like an anchorite 
with all his days spent in prayer and contemplation, but more 
often than not he was preoccupied with such incidents as 
these. It was seldom that a day passed when he did not get at 
least one visitor. He wrote: "One after another they find 
their way up the hill to see the old hermit. It s little I do. I 
wish I could do more, dear Lord. How busy Charles de 
Foucauld used to be, and what multitudes he received every 
day and helped at his hermitage in the Sahara." 

In August 1942 a little church dedicated to St. John the 
Baptist was opened at Baintown, Gat Island, and Fra Jerome 
took care of this church as well as those in nearby settlements. 
The Roma was in full service and it is easy to picture the 
skipper and his mate launching the dinghy and rowing out 
to the boat lying at anchor off The Bight. Then, after a few 
hours sleep they up-anchor in the starlight, run out under 
the jib, and anchor again outside the bar. 

"At dawn we are off again full sail and a free wind and 

all clear ahead across the bay Suddenly there is a terrible 

grinding noise and we heel over, pounding up and down on a 
hidden outcrop of rock. We let down sails at once, and Victor 
jumps overboard in his clothes and, standing up to his neck 



164 The Hermit of Cat Island 

in the sea, tries to shove the Roma s bow round toward the 
deeper water, and I shove with the long sweep. . , . Deo 
gratias! A bigger wave heaves us off into the deep water. 
Fortunately the Roma is well and strongly built and escaped 

with no more than springing a leak As we got off the rock 

and Victor climbed on board his legs were badly cut by the 
sharp rock and bleeding profusely. Fortunately I had a tin of 
carbolic salve ointment on board. ... It was only St. Nicholas 
and our Guardian Angels that brought us safe back to port." 

These autumn voyages brought concrete results as far as 
Fra Jerome s missionary endeavors were concerned. By the 
end of October he had eighty-nine converts and more were 
under instruction. But the hermit had his hands full with the 
emotional Bahamians. He wrote that "here you have to get 
back to the discipline of the primitive Church. You have to 
keep drumming into them that religion is not a coat of white 
wash but a new life." He was encouraged, however, by the 
remark of the commissioner of the islands who told him that 
he had noticed a remarkable difference in the Freetown peo 
ple since Fra Jerome had opened the church there. Lawsuits 
and court cases had diminished considerably which may 
have been because Fra Jerome himself acted as judge in quite 
a few cases. He wrote down the story of one husband-wife 
fracas that he settled amicably. 

"A fortnight ago a young woman whom I had married in 
June last year, Rosalie, arrived panting and sweating early 
one morning at the hermitage. Farder, I don t know what to 
do me and Harold was just havin* a little fun togeder just 
play like we often does, and then I go into the house and take 
up the knife to peel an onion, and the constable he come in 
the door and say, "Give me dat knife," an he wrench it out of 
my hand, an take it to put me in court before the chief (the 
local name for the commissioner). 

" Well, I replied, why did he do that? 



Island Priest 165 

" I don t know, Farder, I was only peeling the onion. 

"I told her to go home and send her husband up to see me. 
In an hour s time Harold appeared and repeated exactly what 
his wife had said. 

"So I went down to the village and questioned the people 
in all the nearby houses to find out the true facts. It proved 
to have been a nasty fight husband and wife rolling on the 
ground, trying to strangle each other! Til kill you, says 
Harold. Getting up, Rosalie runs into the house and fetches 
the big sisal knife and makes a pass at Harold in the back. 
Then the constable arrives, having been summoned by Har 
old s mother. He just held out his hand quickly, and said: 
Give me the knife. 

"I knew it might go hard for the poor girl perhaps six 
months imprisonment so I talked to the couple outside, 
and gave them a dressing down for telling me such lies, and 
that it was no good my trying to help them unless they told 
the truth and nothing but the truth, otherwise the magistrate 
would get cross with the contradictions and prevarications, 
and, having to cross-examine so many witnesses, it was sure 
to end with imprisonment. 

"The next day was Sunday and I preached about the Bible 
the Church s book, and with what reverence she treated the 
Word of God, and the very book itself, for example, the cere 
monies (which some of them had seen in Nassau) at a High 
Mass incense, lights, etc., at the reading of the Gospel. And 
when you were received into the Church you professed your 
belief, saying, "having before me the Holy Gospels which I 
touch with my hand," and some of you may have to go into 
court and lay your hands on the Bible, saying: "I swear by 
Almighty God to tell the Truth, the whole Truth, and noth 
ing but the Truth." And you that are Catholics now, do you 
mean to tell me you will dare to do as you used to do before 
to tell the magistrate a pack of lies? 



166 The Hermit of Cat Island 

"Then I enlarged on why God did not strike a person dead 
at once, and on liars having their part in the lake of fire and 
brimstone, etc., etc. a very necessary sort of sermon, because 
perjury just to back up friends, or clear yourself, is so preva 
lent and so little thought of. 

"That same Sunday evening I walked along to the residency 
and had a friendly talk with the commissioner. The case was 
heard in the middle of the week. The delinquents owned up 
to all the constable charged them with. The great cloud of 
witnesses waiting below in the basement, not one of them had 
to be called. The commissioner was well pleased with being 
able to settle the case so easily, and, after a good lecture, 
merely bound over Harold and Rosalie to keep the peace. On 
the following Saturday the pair came to confession, and knelt 
side by side at the altar rail next morning. So far, they have 
lived happily together again!" 

This long story will set at rest any notion that Fra Jerome s 
life on Gat Island resembled that of St. John the Evangelist 
on the Isle of Patmos. If he ever fell into trances or had 
ecstasies he took good care never to mention them in his 
letters. He was no Angela of Foligno or Margaret of Cortona. 
Judging from his correspondence, Fra Jerome would have 
been horrified if anybody had called him a mystic. God, as 
visible in His creation, interested him far more than the 
abstract speculations of mystical theologians. All that mat 
tered to him was that "the Word was made flesh, and came to 
dwell among us." On Gat Island, in the beauties of the sky 
and the sea, and above all in the people, Fra Jerome almost 
always seems to have "had sight of God s glory, glory such as 
belongs to the Father s only-begotten Son, full of grace and 
truth." How often did he not refer to the "beautiful gifts of 
God," saying that God lets us have lovely things to cheer us 
on our way and to be a medium of education for us? 

But he was convinced of the efficacy of the contemplative 



Island Pnest 167 

orders, and as World War II went on he began to feel that, 
once peace was restored, there was little hope that people 
would be brought back to God in any other way than through 
the growth and expansion of the Benedictines, Cistercians, 
Carmelites and Poor Clares and through the transformation 
of the Franciscan Third Order, "from a pious confraternity 
back to the original idea of a Catholic communist society of 
penance, voluntary poverty, and social welfare." 

"I think," he wrote, "that many returned soldiers, sailors 
and airmen, after all the privations and horrors of this war 
and the futility of the world wrestling for economic domina 
tion and influence, may yet fly for peace and rest to such 
Benedictine communities of the primitive observance, which 
try to support themselves by agriculture or other forms of 
manual labor. But they must be housed in an austerely plain 
monastery, with the oratory mentioned in the Rule of St. 
Benedict, not the great sumptuous and costly medieval abbey 
church. There must be no publicity or advertisement no 
encirclement of the monastery with tea gardens or boarding- 
houses for sight-seers and trippers. In an abbey of the Cluniac 
type, the visitors would gaze open-mouthed at the gorgeous 
carvings and paintings of God and His saints look at the 
pictures and move on. In an abbey of the Cistercian kind 
they will notice more the life of the monks, and go away won 
dering why!" 

The famous hermitage of the Garceri, visited by almost ev 
ery pious pilgrim staying in Assisi, was always at the back of 
Fra Jerome s mind. And if anybody had asked this voluntary 
"prisoner" on Cat Island what was the hardest thing he had to 
endure, there can be little doubt that he would have replied 
that it was not having a dog as his companion. 

In September 1942, three years and four months after his 
heart had nearly been broken on parting with his fox terrier, 
Dominie, he was still thinking of his "dearest cobber" and re- 



168 The Hermit of Cat Island 

membered clearly this "scruffy black and white fox terrier 
tail up and head cocked on one side, with bright eyes" re 
garding her master. When Fra Jerome looked at a treasured 
photo of Dominie he admitted that the tears came into his 
eyes and a choking lump into his throat. 

Mrs. Roberts, the wife of the farmer who had adopted 
Dominie, wrote him that the dog "had kept up a brave ex 
terior," but after a whole year had passed and she could not 
hear again the voice she loved, the waiting was too long for 
her, and one morning Mrs. Roberts found Dominie curled up 
dead in her basket. She had passed peacefully in her sleep 
with no sign of any struggle, a fitting end for such a faithful 
heart. 

Snakes, however, were put into a different category from 
dogs. Fra Jerome had no wish that these dumb creatures 
should be slithering around him as he passed the Golden 
Gate. In November 1942 he wrote that he had been engaged 
in "a proper snake week* around the hermitage, and had 
killed three out of four. One dropped from the porch roof, 
with a big frog in its mouth that was squarking loudly." The 
hermit seized his machete and chopped the snake s head off, 
and the frog jumped free. "Well! little fellow," I said, "you ve 
had a narrow escape," whereupon the frog jumped flop, right 
onto my shoulder. Brother Frog and Brother Lizard are al 
ways good friends, but a snake is the very devil!" 

A few days later Fra Jerome was doing some jobs around 
his little guest cabin, in preparation for the expected visit of 
Fra Nicholas Kremer, when, coming swiftly through the long 
grass, and heading straight for the cabin, he beheld the big 
gest snake he had ever met outside a zoological garden. He 
struck it with all his strength, but the cutlass, though sharp- 
edged, made no impression on its tough, leathery skin. He 
hit the reptile again and again. Then it slithered half under 
the floor of the cabin. Had it died there, the stench would 



Island Priest 



169 



have been unbearable for weeks. So Fra Jerome seized the 
snake by the tail, and pulled it out with all his might. Twice 
his hold slipped, but at last he hauled it out. Then the snake 
turned on its captor, who just managed to get a grip on its 




The Snake Hunt 

neck. It was almost seven feet long and as thick as a human 
forearm. Some of the natives who saw the dead snake the fol 
lowing day reckoned it to be the biggest ever found on Cat 
Island. 

The incident provoked some other and sinister "snake 
yarns" outside the church after Mass on Sunday. One woman 
who had left her two little children under a tree while she was 
working in her plantation found that a snake had coiled 
round one of them and killed the infant. 

The local attitude toward snakes was closely bound up with 
superstition. "Talking of snakes," Fra Jerome wrote, "the 
terror of Obeah still remains with some of the people. Last 
Sunday an old, old woman came to me after Mass for some 
medicine for her feet very swollen and cracked. I gave her 



170 The Hermit of Cat Island 

some epsom salts to bathe them in hot water with some heal 
ing ointment. I know why they come so/ she said, it s the 
Black Heart of the Seven Sisters. My brother read it in a 
book he found in a sailboat from Haiti, and he gets earth out 
of the graves in the cemetery and spreads it at night on my 
path between my house and kitchen. It s that what cracks my 
feet; so I m a cripple now and can hardly walk/ So all I could 
do was to laugh, and teU the old lady that it was all silly non 
sense and superstition. She and her brother Simon keep up 
a perpetual feud." 

On January 14, 1943, Fra Jerome received a letter from Dr. 
Gummer, the new Bishop of Geraldton, informing him that 
he was still regarded as a priest of that diocese. It pleased him 
that the Bishop had retained his name as one of the "con- 
suitors," without interfering with his extended leave of 
absence from Australia. Dr. Gummer wrote: "Your leave 
will not be terminated by me. Should you wish to return at 
any time, you will be most welcome. You gave of your best to 
the diocese, and you have left behind an honored name here, 
and an example for the young priests to follow." 

But the old hermit, far from having any desire to return to 
Australia, felt that he ought to do far more penance, and con 
fessed that, after a visit from Father Brendan, he "fell to more 
relaxation again," that is, he moved into the little guest 
dormitory on his new cloister. Here he had been sleeping in 
pajamas between sheets with two pillows. But he admits that 
he tossed about most nights and got very little sleep. Even 
worse, the sand flies got in under the sheets and bit him! 
" The sergeants of the Lord come in to punish me thus," he 
wrote. Determined to renew his efforts, he gave his rock bunk 
in the cell a thorough washing with a strong solution of per 
manganate of potash, and brushed the walls and soaked the 
corners. This rid him of the hog lice, and once more the 
hermit slept on the straw mat in his habit and cord. 



Island Priest 171 

But even this hard bed was not penance enough for him. 
Ever since he had cleaned out the small cave for a "burial 
crypt" Fra Jerome had intended to sleep there, but the longer 
he deferred doing so, the less he was inclined to relish the 
idea. Now, however, he resolved to go through with this 
mortification. On February 12 he peered into the narrow, ir 
regular chamber at the far end of the cave and it looked 
repulsive. A snake slithered into a side pocket of the rock; 
land crabs scuttled over the ground. With sudden resolution 
Fra Jerome lit a fire inside the cave that blazed up so high 
that to him, watching through the barred door, it looked like 
"the gates of Purgatory." When the leaping flames had died 
down to embers, the hermit tossed a few chips of paraffin onto 
the bed of glowing coals and immediately the cave was filled 
with a thick smoke that killed the mosquitoes and sand 
flies. 

By midnight the air in the cave was clear of smoke and Fra 
Jerome began his preparations for sleeping within. He carried 
an armful of hay to the far end of the cave and crawling on 
his hands and knees arranged it as a bed. With his hatchet he 
chipped off some protruding knobs of rock from the floor, and 
filled up a hollow with loose, flat rocks before spreading a 
palm mat over the dried grass. He dispensed with a pillow, as 
the floor sloped downward and his head was higher than his 
feet. 

"I knelt down," he wrote, "and said my short Litany of the 
Hermits and then lay down, first on my back with arms out 
straight as I hope I may be laid when dead in forma crucis. 
Then I turned the hurricane lamp to a faint glimmer. I kept 
my hood drawn over my head to keep Varmints out of my 
hair. I recited the Compline prayer. . . . When the time comes 
and my soul is in Purgatory (if my body is walled in here), 
worms and maggots will be ceaselessly at work on it until the 
bare white bones lie in the form of the cross. Perhaps a snake 



172 The Hermit of Cat Island 

will wriggle through the empty eye sockets of the skull, and 
crabs, no longer dreaded, walk under the ribs." 

This somewhat morbid picture is mitigated by Fra Je 
rome s further meditation on the happiness he drew from 
sleeping directly under the altar in the cave above, and by the 
description of his dream of awakening in the Bishop s house 
in Geraldton to the sound of the cook going about preparing 
breakfast. 

"Then I really wake up and see the rough vault of rock 
some eighteen inches above my head. I draw up my knees and 
they hit the ceiling. But how warm and comfortable it is here. 
I feel grand, and the sore throat is really much better. I am 
lying on my left side and a faint glow comes from the lamp on 
the other side. I lie and doze a little longer and then turn up 
the lamp. I crawl down the cave on hands and knees. The 
door has swung to with the wind and oiltside it is raining. 
Climbing up to the oratory, I see the first faint glow of dawn 
in the sky. Well! One s grave is a very snug and comfortable 
place to sleep in!" 

Perhaps the severities that Fra Jerome inflicted upon him 
self contributed to a certain "nerviness" that is apparent in 
some of his diary entries. He remarks that the devil had been 
piling up artfully a mountain of petty annoyances, trifling, 
but enough to upset his equanimity. The prior at Nassau had 
not responded to his plea for more candles; there had been no 
acknowledgment of a check he had sent to another Benedic 
tine to defray the expenses of a blind girl; another monk had 
wired that he would arrive that evening "like a thunderbolt 
when I am short of groceries and other supplies no clean 
sheets ready or anything." 

He grumbles on that just when he has arranged a trip to 
Long Island "comes a vague communication from the Bishop 
that he hopes to visit the Bight shortly/ He doesn t say how 
plane, private boat, or mail steamer; if the latter, will it 



Island Priest 173 

be for a few hours stay over or a week until the mail boat 
returns?" He was disturbed that some of his flock were leav 
ing to get work in Florida; that feuds were cropping up 
among his people. But that these were just passing irritations 
is clearly indicated when he writes, "First hand goes to the 
devil, but the second to me. For I have a most wholesome 
lesson in learning how far I am from religious detachment 
and humility/ 

One of the things that helped the hermit forget about 
minor annoyances was a new-found interest in gardening. He 
had planted orderly rows of cabbages, carrots and turnips as 
well as many local varieties of vegetables and fruits, and care 
fully watered and tended them. His cabbages gave him par 
ticular delight their extraordinary sweetness, he was sure, 
came from the tropical sunshine. He toyed, too, with the idea 
of keeping goats but decided it would be too much bother 
and contented himself with urging his people to drink goats 
milk. They obviously regarded this as an eccentric notion. 
As one woman put it, "I want real milk not that dirty stuff 
from a dirty cow or goat, but proper milk in a tin." 

Fra Jerome accepted this rebuff with secret amusement and 
turned his attention to more important matters such as the 
baptism of Victor s first-born, a handsome boy whom they 
named Paschal. Holy Week was upon him again. Fra Jerome 
had decided to perform the Maundy because "it s all there in 
the missal so I reckon it is meant to be carried out," and there 
was wholehearted congregational enthusiasm when the her 
mit washed twelve pairs of black feet on Holy Thursday. 

A less liturgical project was a plan for a communal corn 
bin "plastered inside and out with a strong waterproofed 
mixture of cement. Padlocked manhole on top of concrete 
roof, thus sealed against weevils." The hermit urged the adop 
tion of this upon the government authorities along with 
"public toilets," which he claimed were urgently needed in 



174 The Hermit of Cat Island 

Freetown. There was no danger of Fra Jerome becoming a 
"poseur and dilettante" with such practical problems con 
stantly engrossing him. 

He was engrossed, too, by the books and magazines that 
arrived on the mail boat, and commented critically on his 
reading. Of The Song of Bernadette, which he devoured in 
three days, he remarked that it "has made Lourdes live for 
me, and has given me a deep devotion and love for Bernadette 
Soubirous." The Family That Overtook Christ he dismissed 
as "melodrama exaggerated and strained in style/ But what 
appealed most strongly to him was a life of the Carthusian 
Dom Edmund Gurdon which in 1943 was appearing in the 
Prinknash Abbey magazine Pax. 

Dom Edmund had written in his later years, "My days here 
are flowing by very peacefully. I am most of the day in my 
cell in utter solitude, all alone with God and my thoughts and 
my rich store of memories of the past. I pray a great deal more 
than I have ever done before. I do also a certain amount of 
manual work. Time never lags with me, nor has it ever done 
so. I have never in all my life known what ennui is. I find my 
days always too short. My life is indeed monotonous, but its 
monotony is only exterior." 

Fra Jerome carefully copied these words into his diary and 
added, "I could make Dom Edmund s words my own." 



10. 



Soliloquies of a Solitary [1948] 



LONG before Fra Jerome set foot on Cat Island he had been 
trying to clarify his ideas on the eremitical life: first, through 
his reading; later, through jotting down in his diary thoughts 
that had occurred to him. He was, of course, strongly influ 
enced by the Franciscan eremitical ideal, but in accord with 
the eclecticism that had shown itself so strongly in his archi 
tectural exploits, his view of the hermit s life was drawn 
from many sources. 

Just what the composite was is clearly revealed in a series 
of articles called Soliloquies of a Solitary, which first ap 
peared in Tax in 1943, and which in 1952 was published in 
book form, with additional material, and a dozen illustra 
tions by the author, by the Dublin Capuchins. Fra Jerome, 
with a cloudy idea of keeping his identity a secret, had signed 
the original articles "Troglodyte," but his references to an 
"island hermitage" gave a strong clue to the authorship of 
the Soliloquies. 

Fra Jerome introduced his little work with a bow to 
Cardinal Newman, who had written, "Solitude is to be sought 
not because of the relief from those who are not there, but for 
His sake Who is." This, Fra Jerome felt, summed up perfectly 
the raison d etre for the eremitical life; its idealistic appeal/ 

175 



176 The Hermit of Cat Island 

he thought, had been expressed in Richard Rolle s words, 
"The hermit s life is great if it be greatly led." 

Then in his vigorous style Fra Jerome went on to discuss 
the meaning of the solitary life as he saw it. " A modern 
hermit! What a lovely romantic life! some will say; or, How 
I envy him being free from all worries and responsibilities ; 
Such a calm and untroubled way ; A shirking of real life, I 
call it, a lazy, vegetating existence, another will exclaim. 
They all miss the mark, understanding very little about it. 
The life of a solitary is, of course, that of a contemplative, 
and I write of it here as colored by the Franciscan outlook. 
I did not choose or plan or will to be a contemplative, but 
being a priest it was because I was not the man of prayer I 
ought to have been that, to save my soul, God in His mercy 
called me to leave the world. With real diffidence and, I 
hope, a true humility I make a record of my experiences as 
a hermit-tertiary of St. Francis . . . that they may perhaps be 
of some encouragement or consolation to a like-minded 
pilgrim; but let him not look to read any high matters herein, 
for my hermit feet have as yet tramped but on the Purgative 
Way." 

Then for the like-minded pilgrim" Fra Jerome traced the 
steps that led him to become a hermit, telling of his first 
glimpse of Cat Island and of his "Holy Mountain," and 
gave a detailed and highly romantic description of his hill 
top. "The great clouds sailing overhead, painting the land 
scape with beautiful shadows athwart its sunshine" he used 
as a symbol of the heavy black storm clouds that blotted out 
the sunlight from the soul of even a secluded hermit. 

He also confessed to the pull of a warmer, more tempera 
mentally attractive existence such as he had experienced in 
Australia. 

"I pictured the spacious, comfortable presbytery that I 
left, with its easy chairs and well-stocked bookshelves; the 
kind nuns and the laughing school children; the shouting 



Soliloquies of a Solitary 177 

boys at football; my car spinning along those long, smooth 
country roads of Western Australia. Sunday with the bells 
swinging in the church tower and the mellow pipe oigan 
throbbing to Missa de Angelis, while at the altar the smoke 
of the incense curls above my head, spreading a bluish haze 
in the cupola of the dome. We never realize the full extent 
of our happiness in some particular place until after we have 
left it/ 

But, Fra Jerome pointed out, it is not by indulging in 
memories of this kind that a vocation is fulfilled, but by fol 
lowing the way of life to which God calls us. And with regard 
to his own particular vocation he pictured his past life as 
nothing "just a little noisy bubbling over of the kettle with 
a show of spouting steam; so much of self mixed up with it 
all self-esteem, self-satisfaction, self-delusion." Then the 
agonized self-question: "Why has our Lord touched me? 
Why couldn t He leave me alone?" Thus he revealed his 
struggle, his own dark night of the soul in which he was 
overwhelmed with the thought that he was suffering from a 
vain delusion that he had made the biggest mistake of his 
life when he left Australia. He went on to tell, however, of 
the resolution of this conflict when at last his vocation was 
confirmed by his spiritual director s counsel and encourage 
ment. 

Fra Jerome s discussion of the eremitical life owes much 
to The Quest of Solitude which, before he gave up his mis- 
sioner s role in Australia, gave him a general idea of how 
Christian hermits lived from the earliest periods of Church 
history up to modern times. This idea he incorporated into 
his Soliloquies with the understanding that antiquity and 
modernity must be reconciled and combined, and he ex 
plained that he had tried to build a "hermitage of today 
which fits in with the original standard because it has no 
modern ameliorations or characteristics." 

The hermit went on to lay bare his reasons for believing 



178 The Hermit of Cat Island 

so strongly in the solitary life. He pointed out that birds 
and wild creatures have their homes, monks their monas 
teries and individual cells, and itinerant friars their rude 
mountain hermitages to retire within. He stressed that Jesus, 
after He left Nazareth, had no home of His own; that many 
of the saints followed their Master in utter homelessness. 
Poverty as laid down in the Gospel must be the rule in order 
to counteract the spirit of acquisitiveness of which money 
is the symbol. For acquisitiveness is the soul of evil, not only 
in the individual but in corporate bodies and nations. 

"Poverty, Solitude, Penance that is the vocation of a 
Franciscan hermit. I feel that if I respond faithfully to such 
a call, and live the life God shows me, I may bear fruit; but 
if I am to undertake any sort of missionary work, God will 
make it clear to me: I am not to seek it, but to wait for it to 
come to me. In my old age I would like rest and quietness 
to prepare for death, but Domine, si adhuc tuo sum neces- 
sarius non recuso laborem; fiat voluntas tua. The fruit of 
the apostolate springs not from any action, not from any 
work, not from preaching, but wholly from union with 
Christ Jesus, Who says Without Me you can do nothing. 

"Meanwhile, I have this place apart in the wilderness to 
pray in. I go up into the mountain with Our Lord to pray, 
that I may come nearer to God. The new life I am called to 
lead, living as a hermit, is to preach the Gospel in silence. * 

The Hermit of Cat Island felt that his friends ought to 
understand just what was this new life he believed he had 
been called to lead, and went into it in some detail. 

Fasting and abstinence from flesh meat were the basis of 
his life, and he wrote, "For a hundred years after the death 
of St. Francis supper was an unheard-of thing among the 
friars of the motherhouse of Santa Maria degli Angeli. Sim 
ilarly, with the first hermit-friars of the Capuchin reform. 

"In Piers Plowman, Langland says he will not give alms 



Soliloquies of a Solitary 179 

to any hermit except those who eat only once a day after the 
hour of None. . * , We moderns have got so habituated to 
three solid meals a day that to omit or delay the regular hour 
makes us imagine we are hungry. Let the hermit, then, con 
form to the practice of those monasteries where the strict 
observance is kept up. After Mass he will take standing the 
monastic pittance a bowl of hot coffee and some dry bread. 
When he has had his one full meal after None, he will not 
feel the need of anything further before nightfall and bed 
time. . . Wartime affords additional opportunities for sim 
plifying the menu. Here, at present, cheese is unobtainable; 
it is the off season for hens to lay eggs; and the sea has been 
too rough for any fishing. To my dish of boiled rice or Indian 
corn I add a sauce made with red peppers, tomatoes, shallots 
or onions out of my garden, chopped up small, and fried 
in cottonseed oil. Whether Habacuc would have passed my 
mess of pottage as okay to carry to the reapers I couldn t 
say, but it is probably better than any mess that Charles de 
Foucauld ate in the Sahara!" 

Fra Jerome goes on to describe the place where he prepared 
his meals, and gives further little domestic details. "In the 
tiny kitchen of his hermitage the recluse will be up against 




The Solitary 



180 The Hermit of Cat Island 

the many inconveniences of real poverty: there is no room 
to put anything down anywhere, only one small table twenty 
inches square, a few narrow shelves in the corner, and a 
couple of iron bars across the fireplace with its smoke- 
blackened arch stones. It is raining, and he forgot to bring in 
any dry sticks from the now-wet heap of firewood outside. 
After the meal comes the washing up; the fried cotton oil 
congeals on the plate, and burned rice sticks in the saucepan 
like a sacrament that confers character! Thank God there s 
no rule enjoining two meals a day." 

The hermit of Mount Alvernia attached equal importance 
to his clothing or rather the lack of it. "Wherever I go I 
wear the gray habit and cord, donning an old torn and ragged 
tunic for nightwear, for the hermit must always be on duty 
with his loins girded and his light burning. ... St. Francis 
said his brethren were not to wear sandals unless compelled 
by necessity. Merely to substitute sandals for boots and shoes 
makes, in reality, for greater comfort. A few years ago I 
could not step barefoot even on the rounded shingle of the 
seashore without flinching; now I can walk (and have done 
fifteen miles at one stretch in a day) absolutely barefooted 
over the roughest jagged rock or loose stone rubble, and un 
concernedly through pools of rain water. . . . The Franciscan 
hermit has his footgear perpetually being resoled and re- 
heeled by nature and needs no new ones. 

"About twice a year, when my hair is growing too long 
down at the back of my neck, I cut it off myself in chunks 
with a pair of scissors, and without needing a mirror. My 
beard, after the Capuchin style, I regard not so much as an 
escape from daily shaving, but as a penance. How anyone 
could grow a beard for preference I cannot imagine! I sup 
pose the hermits of former times must have looked a bit wild, 
so I was amused when one of the rare visitors who had 
climbed the hill couldn t refrain from blurting out: Well, 



Soliloquies of a Solitary 181 

really, you look just like one of the old prophets out of the 
Bible! " 

Fra Jerome continued to soliloquize about his longing 
for a good library, telling how much he missed the com 
panionship of books. On the other hand, he remarked that 
he could manage quite well without "boatloads of spiritual 
books." After all, the Bible, Breviary, and the Missal are the 
three books containing "the one word of God." Another dep 
rivation, a spiritual one, was that he managed to get to con 
fession only about four or five times a year when a priest 
happened to be on the mail steamer going to or coming from 
one or the other out-island mission station. 

It was a compensation that he had the privilege of saying 
Mass without a server, because he could take as long as he 
liked over it, "for how my server would fidget if he had some 
time to kneel for an hour praying for lie missa est! Nor is 
there a devoted cook fuming because the bacon is getting 
cold. And why should the hermit worry if the amice does 
stay around his neck more than half an hour? Standing before 
this table of squared stones on the hilltop, do I not reach 
back thousands of years to the sacrificum Patriarchae nostri 
Abrahae; et quod tibi obtulit summus sacerdos tuus Mel- 
chisedech, and forward to all eternity? So why need we 
hurry?" 

Fra Jerome went so far as to maintain that "the keystone 
of the regular observance of a contemplative life is the night 
office." Although he included in the Soliloquies a description 
of his nocturnal devotions, his diary gives a more complete 
and informal picture of them. 

"I always ring the Angelus bell at midnight. The old sick 
people down in Freetown tell me how they like to hear it in 
the long, still night. . . . The midnight hour I begin thus: 
God be merciful to me a sinner/ Taking holy water, I kneel 
on the rock floor against the west door of the oratory. I slowly 



182 The Hermit of Cat Island 

make the sign of the cross. Then I look at Our Lady s image 
and repeat the holy words of Lourdes: Tenance, pray for 
sinners, for a sick world/ I kiss the rock, and then move 
forward on my bare knees saying the Hail Mary. Halfway 
I stop, and holding out my arms in the form of a cross 
(fingers just touching the wall on each side) I say the Our 
Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be to the Father for the in 
tentions of our Holy Father the Pope. Then I go forward a 
little and kiss the altar step five times in honor of the Five 
Wounds (or seven times in honor of the Seven Sorrows of 
Our Lady) , and twice more one for our Holy Father St. 
Francis and one for St. Patrick. Then I shuffle on to the step 
and kiss the edge of the altar slab. Then again move back 
ward, still on my knees, and below the step kiss the rock 
again, raising my arms high with hands joined, and begin 
the Veni Creator Spiritus. ... I rise and kneel in the stall 

and say the Litany of the Hermits Then I rise and sit and 

begin my meditation. 

"After an hour I light the big hurricane lamp and recite 
Matins, but leave Lauds for the morning, and it makes a 
good thanksgiving after Mass. If my eyes are tired, or if 
there is a shortage of kerosene ... I only say the invitatory 
and one nocturn of Matins at night. It s not the correct thing, 
and may be a bit irregular to break up the Office thus, but 
why strain and tire one s eyes and use precious midnight 
oil when there will be all the day coming with the sun that 
God has provided for a natural light better than a smoky 
old hurricane lamp!" 

The diary also sets forth the hermit s method of interces 
sory prayer during the midnight hour alone before the 
Blessed Sacrament. 

"I travel around the world. Prayer is the golden chain that 
stretches across the oceans and binds us around the feet of 
God. Australia: my two bishops James Patrick and Alfred 



Soliloquies of a Solitary 183 

Joseph; Geraldton, Dongarra, Rf ullewa, Tardun, Perth and 
the tertiaries; Ballarat, with the good Sisters and their sick 
ones. Jerusalem: the Convent of Our Lady of Sion and the 
orphanage. Rome: the Holy Father and Father Benedict Wil 
liamson. Assisi: with all its friars of the order to which I 
belong. England: my relatives and friends. Peekskill and the 
Franciscan Sisters. Vancouver. Wartime Europe. These is 
lands: the Bishop, Fathers and Sisters; the Apostolate of the 
Sea, all sailors and fishermen; my own flock here on Cat 
Island and Long Island." 

His commemorations finished, Fra Jerome would return 
to his cell "sometimes to sleep, sometimes to toss restlessly 
about until the first streaks of daylight." On one occasion 
he really felt so sick that there seemed sufficient reason for 
taking a dispensation from his Rule. 

"I clamped the brake down on the alarum of the clock, 
and I had an extra sound sleep. I woke with a sudden start 
how much of the night had passed? Is it near morning? 
I strike a match. The minute hand of the clock is exactly 
one minute to twelve. Well, if that s not my Guardian Angel 
I haven t got one! What are you here for? Your health and 
rest? Let us have no more relaxations and mitigations that 
have ever been the curse of monastic observance/ 7 

But of course these nocturnal observances were only part 
of the Rule he had set himself. He recited the rest of the 
Office during the day, read portions of the Bible or The 
Imitation of Christ after his frugal breakfast, and inter 
spersed his prayers with vigorous manual labor. At the close 
of the day the hermit walked down the hill, then climbed 
up by the steep path to make the Way of the Cross, rang 
the evening Angelus, and finished his devotions. 

The uncritical reader of Soliloquies of a Solitary would 
be almost certain to form the idea that the rule of life ob 
served by the Hermit of Cat Island was more or less a literal 



184 The Hermit of Cat Island 

imitation of that of the First Rule of the Friars Minor, or 
that Fra Jerome was trying to conform to the Third Order 
Rule. Actually the "Rule of Mount Alvernia" was a patch 
work made up of bits and pieces taken from various rules. 
Fra Jerome interpolated anything that he felt would be help 
fal to his spiritual life without bothering whether it was 
Franciscan in origin. Nevertheless, even though there is no 
reference in the Soliloquies to the short Rule drawn up by 
St. Francis for all Franciscan hermits, Fra Jerome insisted 
that he was a hermit-tertiary of St. Francis. 

His deviations from the Franciscan rule tended toward an 
emphasis on mortification. For example, Franciscans do not 
stand for their frugal breakfast; the "standing pittance** was 
a custom that Fra Jerome picked up from the Anglican Bene 
dictines at Caldey. As far as the austerities of the hermit s 
fasting were concerned, he exceeded the Rules of both the 
First and Third Orders which advocated neither perpetual 
abstinence from flesh meat nor a "breakfast pittance and one 
meal a day." 

Fra Jerome s sacklike gray habit and cord, patterned after 
that of the Capuchins, was quite unlike the costume of medi 
eval Franciscan tertiaries who were bidden to "dress in 
humble, undyed cloth . . . their outer garments and furred 
coats without open throat, sewed shut or uncut but certainly 
laced up, not open as secular people wear them . . . their 
sleeves closed. They are pennitted to have leather purses and 
belts sewed in simple fashion without silken thread, and no 
other kind/ His beard likewise was a Capuchin inspiration. 

Although Fra Jerome s belief that recitation of the night 
Office is "the keystone to the contemplative life" was con 
sistent with strict Franciscan practice, he seemed to have 
forgotten that there are many contemplative orders which 
do not require their members to rise in the night to recite 
the Office. Moreover, the hour of mental prayer at midnight 



Soliloquies of a Solitary 185 

seems to have been adapted by the hermit from Cistercian 
observance, rather than Franciscan. And as is usual with 
Fra Jerome, he exceeded the Cistercian practice by half an 
hour! 

But there was one observance that Fra Jerome dearly loved 
that was peculiarly Franciscan. That was the making of the 
Way of the Cross. Fra Jerome s carefully carved, open-air 
stations have their prototype in countless friaries all over 
Europe and particularly in Italy. 

And in his isolation from his fellow tertiaries Fra Jerome 
was also following a tradition established in the Middle Ages 
when some of the Franciscan tertiaries were so loosely con 
nected with the Order that after their deaths their bodies 
were claimed by Augustinians, Benedictines or Carmelites. 
The hermit, once he had retired to the Bahamas, failed to 
establish contact with any official branch of the Franciscan 
Third Order and seemed to prefer to regard himself as a 
solitary unit of a mystical world-wide "Order of St. Francis." 
He even, in 1950, requested that O.S.F. and not T.O.S.F. 
be added after his name, explaining that the former initials 
comprised all Third Order congregations and hermits. 

In the Soliloquies, however, he writes not only of St. 
Francis, but of the medieval hermit Richard Rolle, of Dom 
Edmund Gurdon and of Charles de Foucauld, all of whom 
he considered guides to the eremitical life. And he goes on 
to say that if he loves his little hermitage and wishes to be 
buried in his cave, his want of detachment must be forgiven, 
"since a great and holy solitary, St. Cuthbert, expressed the 
wish for his remains to be laid to rest on his beloved Fame 
Island beside the oratory his own hands had fashioned." 

Fra Jerome ended his unique little book on a note of hu 
mility. "The solitary has left the world in order to try to live 
closer to God. St. Francis was able to say to God, 1 would 
wish to love Thee more if it were possible, but I cannot give 



186 The Hermit of Cat Island 

Thee more than myself; I have given myself whole and en 
tire/ How happy and blessed we poor earth-bound creatures 
would be if only we could truthfully say the same. Let the 
hermit kneel humbly behind little Bernadette Soubirous as 
she shuffles forward on her knees over the loose stones in the 
cave of Masobielle in order to hear more clearly the words 
of the gracious Lady: Tenance! Pray for sinners for a sick 
world/ Sancta Maria, Regina Eremitarum, ora pro nobis" 
Nobody could say that profundity is a characteristic of 
Soliloquies of a Solitary. Rather is it a collection of vividly 
drawn and highly colored sketches, like those which illus 
trated and enlivened most of the author s letters to his 
friends. The prose style is as quaint and original as the pen- 
and-ink drawings. Just because of his artistic temperament 
it was almost impossible for John Cyril Hawes to lead a "hid 
den life" in the strict meaning of the phrase. Neither could 
St Francis, for that matter. Like the Little Poor Man, Fra 
Jerome could not resist making grand gestures and drawing 
attention to himself. Both these men were basically dramatist- 
poet-knights proclaiming that they were trying to be faithful 
to their Lady Poverty. Fra Jerome always saw himself in 
much the same way as he saw his buildings, carvings and 
paintings. He was so naive and simple that it is improbable 
he realized that this little book might be regarded by un 
sympathetic critics as an amusing piece of exhibitionism! 
After the publication of the Soliloquies in 1952 it became 
extremely difficult for the hermit to lead a hidden life, yet 
even then he could not understand why people would not 
leave him alone on his Bahamian island. 



11. 



"In Journeyings Often ..." [1944-1948] 



FROM 1944 Fra Jerome found his solitude interrupted more 
and more often. Both missionary work and architectural as 
signments drew him away from Cat Island until Mount Al- 
vernia no longer seemed like his permanent home, but like 
a retreat to which he withdrew for a brief period of isolation 
before he had to be off again. 

One of the problems that he encountered in his missionary 
work, and one that gave him a good many headaches, was that 
of administering conditional Baptism to converts from An 
glicanism. He himself clung to the view that rites adminis 
tered by High Church clergymen must be valid. "You can t 
go splitting hairs about their right intention they mean to 
do what the Church does. When Protestant ministers can 
imitate Catholic rites and ceremonial, and cense the altar 
with the correct number of swings, etc., and probably more 
rubrically than the average priest does it, can you doubt their 
want of exactitude over what they know is so much more an 
important thing as Baptism? . . * It s very difficult to drum 
into the heads of simple folk the difference of a conditional 
sacrament artd what it means; and this rebaptism 1 as they 
see it makes for bitterness. . . . 

"I venture to think that to accept their Anglican Baptism, 

187 



188 The Hermit of Cat Island 

after proper inquiries, would bring more over; and suppos 
ing in one case out of a hundred that Baptism was invalid, 
would that be a more serious loss than one hundred people 
kept away in toto from the Church because of its enforced 
conditional rebaptism? In the one aforesaid supposed in 
valid administration the Baptism of Desire would ensure the 
salvation of that soul. You can talk and instruct until blue 
in the face about the conditional* administration as pre 
cautionary measure against some possible flaw in so important 
a matter, but nine out of the ten will cheerfully think they 
are being baptized a second time tiuo baptisms for the re 
mission of sins!" 

But when Lent of 1944 came round Fra Jerome abandoned 
theological speculation to wonder despairingly if the condi 
tional and unconditional baptisms he had administered had 
done much to cast out the devil. His flock had indulged in 
so much lying, thieving, adultery, gambling, drinking and 
fornication, that all he could do Sunday after Sunday was to 
denounce their wicked lives until he got weary of hearing 
the sound of his own voice. His self-imposed penances and 
his sufferings from colds, fever, sore throat and rheumatism 
did nothing to raise his spirits. He wrots that he felt like a 
John the Baptist in the wilderness. From the pulpit he 
preached to exceptionally large congregations, all agog to 
hear what he would have to say. The more pious purred in 
their seats until their priest let loose on them, because they 
gloated self-righteously over their neighbors sins. 

A succession of fiery discourses, with plenty of references 
to lions, tigers, jackals, and wolves and comparisons of some 
of the listeners to slimy serpents slithering in the long grass; 
then passing on to the beauty of brotherly love, Christian 
charity, and the love and compassion of the Sacred Heart 
for the lost sheep and the prodigal son proved effective. 

"Well! Deo gratias, my sermons bore some good fruit. The 



"In Journeying* Often . . ." 189 

liquor-shop proprietors closed down their dance hall for the 
rest of Lent, and the ole-man *hymn and hell-raiser came 
along by himself to Mount Alvernia, sweating and panting 
up the Via Crucis under a broiling sun. He was very humble 
and repentant and made his confession the following Satur 
day evening. . . . And in revenge the devil s latest attack on 
the hermit came last Sunday, when I was away in Freetown. 
Thieves forcibly broke into the hermitage and stole four 
pounds I had left there in small silver and notes. My alms 
box for the sick and needy, containing a money order from 
some tertiaries in Australia, had been cashed a few days be 
fore." 

By way of contrast to those hell-fire sermons with their 
denunciations of vice in its crudest forms, Fra Jerome was 
told by Bishop Bernard shortly after Easter that he must give 
the annual retreats in July to the two convents in Nassau 
the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, and the native 
colored Sisters of Blessed Martin de Porres. No other priest 
was available. Fra Jerome wrote to Mr. Selby-Hall, "If you 
get this letter in time, please ask the prayers of the Carmel 
ites for me and for the poor Sisters who have got to listen to 
me. I dread these retreats. I feel so helpless. I d much sooner 
work ten hours a day in midsummer with my trowel, build 
ing a new convent for them, than this job of plastering the 
spiritual walls of souls! I m only used to preaching to Aus 
tralian bushmen and miners or to poor ignorant sinners on 
such subjects as Mass-missing, swearing, drinking, fighting, 
thieving and fornication. These are hardly helpful themes for 
holy Religious!" 

But then the idea began to appeal to him. "Things hive 
suddenly taken a turn. Ideas, pictures and thoughts are flow 
ing in. These retreats will prove a good exercise and disci 
pline for myself, even if of very little or no help to the good 
Sisters. I get more and more mixed up as to what mysticism 



190 The Hermit of Cat Island 

and contemplation really are, the more I read about them. 
It s all very high flown! The only sort for me that I can 
understand is that of the holy Cur d Ars farm laborer sit 
ting in the church before the tabernacle, 7 look at Him, and 
He looks at me, 9 or St. Francis praying all night, My God 
and my AIL The present status of Adam s earthly Paradise, 
the Third Heaven, and the Seven Rungs of the Ladder of 
Perfection are quite beyond me!" 

Fra Jerome now decided that he must sell the Roma. 
During the previous year he had not made much use of the 
boat and she had been too much of an expense, what with 
paint, ropes and pulleys. On her last two trips to Port Howe 
and back she had nearly been wrecked, and had lost her best 
big anchor. He wrote, "Much as Lloved the boat, I am glad 
to be free of the last thing that might be imputed to me as 
a personal possession. I wish to have absolutely nothing to 
leave in my will, so I have sold her to Charles Rolle, the 
Baintown catechist. She is now a useful cargo boat. Good-by, 
little vessel. Many happy sails and adventures have I had 
in you these four years." It was not long, however, before 
Fra Jerome felt that he could not do without a boat. The 
Roma was superseded by a dinghy, the Rocbird, which he 
could sail himself. 

Fra Jerome was overjoyed to receive a visit in June 1944 
from Bishop Stephen J. Donahue of New York. "A great day!" 
he wrote, "We go down to the beach to meet the plane from 
Nassau, and conduct the Bishop in procession to the church." 
All of the native Cat Islanders turned out for the occasion, 
and Fra Jerome had fifty candidates for Confirmation ready 
for the Bishop. After the ceremonies were finished, the 
Bishop, the hermit and two Benedictines had lunch together. 
Then a visit to the commissioner who offered to put them 
up for the night. "No! They say they prefer to spend the night 
up on Mount Alvernia, and don t mind if they have to rough 
it at the hermitage." 



"In Journeying* Often . . / 191 

So back they climbed to the hilltop, where sitting on the 
green lawn they had tea. Fra Jerome scrambled around mak 
ing shift for the night for his guests. The Bishop, of course, 
occupied the guest cell; Father Ambrose bedded down in the 
shingled cabin where the hermit had laid out a sheet-covered 
grass matting and pillow for him; and Father Marcion 
crawled into the hermit s bunk under the window sill. Fia 
Jerome rolled up a towel for a pillow and fitted himself into 
the curves of the rock outside the south wall of the chapel 
where a soft breeze wakened him for his midnight devotions. 

In the morning, after the four priests had celebrated their 
Masses, the nine altar boys who had climbed the hill to serve 
the Bishop fell to upon the sandwiches, cakes and Coca-Cola 
brought by the Bishop s party, while their elders contented 
themselves with a more conventional breakfast. When the 
episcopal group was ready to return to Nassau, they took Fra 
Jerome along with them so that he might give his scheduled 
retreats. 

Fra Jerome was given a comfortable room and bath in the 
bungalow just below the Benedictine priory where, once 
the retreats were finished, he had plenty of space for a draw 
ing board and to spread out his tools. Here he settled down 
to working out the plans for St. Peter s Church at Clarence 
Town, and, once these were finished, for the Ballarat Cathe 
dral in Australia. It was grueling work and often he stayed 
at it till well past midnight, but by the middle of August the 
drawings were finished and the hermit found himself waiting 
impatiently for the mail boat to Cat Island. 

Before he left Nassau, however, Fra Jerome went to see his 
old fellow missionary of Anglican days, Canon Devall. The 
two friends were overjoyed to see each other again and when 
Fra Jerome s visit drew to a close, very humbly the Canon 
begged his blessing. The hermit was deeply affected by this 
and wrote, "I, although a true priest, felt quite unworthy to 
give it." 



192 The Hermit of Cat Island 

His visit to the Canon turned Fra Jerome s thoughts to a 
comparison of Anglican services with those of the Roman 
Catholic Church. Although he was far from an enthusiastic 
"vernacularist," he was very much in favor of conducting 
funerals, baptisms and marriages in English. It pleased him 
that in the Bahamas congregational Vespers or Compline 
sung in English was encouraged. But when it came to the 
Mass, it was a different story, and the hermit was violently 
against the use of the vernacular. 

"Latin is, of course, the common and universal tongue, 
essentially Catholic/ Some correspondents in the Catholic 
weeklies are talking nonsense about vernacular in Germany 
and Austria: there is no such thing; only rhymed paraphrases 
or translations sung by the congregation during the ordinary 
High or Low Latin Mass. Why all this talk? If people want 
more English, let them sing a few English hymns during 
Mass, and let an educated layman read the Epistle and Gos 
pel in English while the priest is saying them at the altar." 

This was the sort of thing Fra Jerome had started in his 
Church of the Holy Redeemer, Freetown. Every Sunday the 
catechist, vested in cassock and surplice on the greater festi 
vals, read the Epistle and Gospel in English. On Palm Sunday 
and Good Friday he read the Passion. This meant that the 
priest did not have to shout his part and was saved a sore 
throat. "Nothing Lutheran or revolutionary here/ Fra 
Jerome commented. "But for the ordinary weekday Mass, 
it is distracting if the priest reads the Missal in an extra-loud 
voice, I detest those so-called dialogue Masses/ and far worse, 
of course, are those yell gabbles of the Holy Rosary during 
Mass. No! Dim your abominable glaring electric lights and 
give me the old medieval blessed mutter of the Mass/ so 
conducive to prayer and meditation. Let the priest be quick 
or slow, I don t care, but don t let him shout. He stands be 
fore the altar, not to say Mass, or to "read 9 Mass, but to do 
itl" 



"In Journeying* Often . . ." 193 

These strong opinions on the manner of celebrating Mass 
are matched by his attitude toward money. "Was I wise to 
sell out all I had?" he asked himself, and replied without 
hesitation, "No, of course not I was ever a fool, and in 
tended to be one! But as I ve never run short of the where 
withal to build and to help my poor souls, I order lumber 
and cement and haven t a cent left to pay my bills in Nassau. 
I never refuse anyone that asketh of me. I buy groceries every 
weekend for my old grannies and invalids, sometimes paying 
out to get a leaky part of a palm-thatched roof patched up; 
or it may be a pair of dungarees for a penniless old man, 
or cloth for a woman s dress, or a blanket or milk for the 
baby. Always so many asking, and I ve got no money left, 
and I don t know where it is to come from, but with the aid 
of my Guardian Angel and St. Francis I manage to help every 
body. The last mail brought a set of Mass intentions from 
the Franciscan Sisters at Peekskill, and a money order for 
five pounds from a friend in Australia." It was in fact amaz 
ing, almost miraculous, how gifts both in money and in kind 
dropped onto Cat Island like St. Thrse s shower of roses. 

Throughout the autumn of 1944 Fra Jerome, despite the 
fact that he was now sixty-eight years old, kept himself busier 
than ever. One of his ventures was the production of a small 
book of prayers and meditations, lavishly illustrated with 
eighteen drawings. This he sent to his friend Father Rope. 
Then he set to work to carve a seven-foot crucifix for the 
Clarence Town church, using a pocketknife, since carving 
tools, or even a chisel, were not available in Nassau, owing to 
the war. He painted and gilded the crucifix, and while he 
waited for it to dry he busied himself with drawings for the 
proposed new priory at Nassau. He explained to Father 
Frederic that he felt that the monks choir should be the 
first portion to be built, and that the twin towers would 
serve as sea beacons like those at Reculver on the north coast 
of Kent in England. 



194 The Hermit of Cat Island 

His solitary sails in the Rocbird, in spite of the dangers 
that they exposed him to, had such a beneficial effect on the 
hennit s health that by the beginning o Advent he felt that 
he could once again revert to a vegetable diet. The only 
mitigation that he allowed himself was a mug of hot cocoa 
before retiring on cold winters nights. 

And from his description of Mount Alvernia at this season, 
the cocoa was indeed a necessity. "Short, dark days now, and 
these north winds of Atlantic Ocean gales sweep with biting 
force over the hill. This time of year it is indeed Mount Al 
vernia the Mount of Cold, of freezing! Of course to a well- 
nourished, meat-fed Englishman this would not seem really 
cold at all. But when you are of old age, and your blood is 
thin after a sweltering hot tropical summer, it is, in propor 
tion, in contrast, different. Every time I have to open the 
kitchen door to fetch in water or firewood, I shiver in the 
blast of the biting north wind coming down from the icy 
waters of New York and the Hudson River. * But there was 
one great relief the hog lice had completely disappeared 
from the hermitage. 

On December 13 he wrote that he had received no mail 
for more than a month, owing to the erratic movements of 
the steamer from Nassau. "Dear friends at home what 
Would you think of being three weeks and five days without 
a letter or a newspaper? The local storekeeper down below 
at the Bight picks up occasional news on his radio, but more 
often than not he is without batteries, or his set is not work 
ing properly. True, a hermit ought not to pine after any 
worldly news, but if you don t get any, how can you pray 
for the world and for sinners?" Having little to do, Fra Je 
rome amused himself by drawing a Christmas card, which 
he felt appropriate to the present author. 

At the beginning of 1945 Fra Jerome found himself knee 
deep in building plans and operations. He left his hermitage 



*7n Journeyings Often . . " 195 

to camp at the Old Bight where St. Francis Church was tinder 
way, and here, from January through March, he threw him 
self into the supervision and construction of the building. 
The tumbledown shack in which he slept was infested with 
ants and other vermin, the "jiggers" bit the old man unmerci 
fully, and his bare feet became sore and scabrous from tread 
ing in lime. 

It must have been a relief to him to finish the job and go 
off to Long Island to visit Father Cornelius Osendorf with 
whom he could restrict his activities to discussing plans for the 
new Clarence Town church. This new Catholic church would 
stand on the highest hill in the very center of Clarence Town, 
its twin towers higher than those of St. Paul s "the Pearl of 
the Bahamas," which Fra Jerome had designed thirty-seven 
years earlier. 

But he was still more uigently needed at Nassau to draw 
up the working plans for the Benedictine monastery. Abbot 
Alcuin Deutsch, who was staying in Nassau, and Father 




196 The Hermit of Cat Island 

Frederic Frey, the prior, had many conferences with Fra 
Jerome which helped to crystallize their conception of the 
new monastery and make a start on the building. His stay 
in Nassau also afforded the hermit a much-needed rest, as he 
had developed septic ulcers on his insteps and had to get 
around with the aid of a stick. 

Although his room at the monastery was comfortable, 
and life in Nassau was easier for Fra Jerome, he looked upon 
this exile from solitude more as a penance than a respite. 
"Voluntas Dei/ he wrote. "When called upon, I must use 
such gifts as God has given me for the general good in the 
service of His Church. So I must sacrifice my solitude and 
exterior detachment/ This was hard for the old man, for 
the noise of Nassau bothered him and he complained of the 
earsplitting, deafening roar of planes overhead, of the hoots 
and grindings of motor trucks and lorries, and of the "ten 
thousand dogs" that barked loudly all night long. 

"I sleep (or don t!) on a huge spring bed in a large, com 
fortable room and sit down to three square meals and eat 
meat, too. Everybody is very kind to me here. It is a most 
exemplary and edifying community, but the Paupertas of a 
Benedictine monastery is a second cousin once removed 
from the Lady Poverty of St. Francis. I shall be quite glad 
to get back to the peace and quiet of my hermitage." 

It was not until August that Fra Jerome was able to return 
to Cat Island, but all was not so peaceful as he had antici 
pated. Almost immediately he was called upon to settle a 
bitter dispute between two groups who were about to go to 
law. One man whom the decision went against was very 
disappointed. "He said to the others of his party: What you 
listen to that ole man for? What sort of priest is he? You 
dunno what crime he wasn t sent out here for, to have to 
live all alone up on that hill! . . . Good for the hermit 1 Per- 



*7w Journeying* Often . . " 197 

haps the best explanation as yet forthcoming of my settling 
here!" 

Litigation of this kind, which the hermit found so un 
pleasant, was offset by his interest in enlarging the Freetown 
church. For the rest of the year Fra Jerome was occupied with 
the extension of the nave of the church and the construction 
of the south porch. And when he really wanted to get away 
from everything he took the Rocbird out for a sail. 

In spite of his seventy years Fra Jerome often was forced 
to anchor his boat if the wind was onshore and, sharks or no 
sharks, dive into deep water and swim ashore. "The last time 
I did this it was very cold/ he wrote, "but I soon got warm 
walking in the sun and slipped on my habit again. I admit I 
had neuritis extra bad that night. ..." The truth was that 
Fra Jerome was too old for this sort of escapade, but he re 
fused to take care of himself. It is not surprising that by Lent 
of 1946 he was "anchored to the anchorage" by a leg and 
foot "swollen as big as an elephant s, starred here and there 
by decorative boils." He was incapacitated to the point 
where he could not even gather kindling to light a fire, but 
he says that his Guardian Angel sent a man up the hill with 
a bundle of firewood and that this "heaven-sent messenger" 
returned every day until he recovered. 

One morning, just after he had bathed his leg and ban 
daged it and was sitting writing, with his foot on an old box, 
who should arrive but His Excellency the Governor Sir 
Charles Murphy accompanied by his wife, daughter, and 
military aide-de-camp. Fra Jerome wrote: "There they were 
standing without the hermit s door. I felt worse than Eliseus 
did when he saw Naaman with his horses and chariots! I d 
been too sick to sweep or tidy up the place for days, and I was 
in a very dirty old ragged habit (more than Franciscan). 
The party came in and sat on the only chair and on boxes 



198 The Hermit of Cat Island 

and the cold rock seat in the corner. But I found them most 
charming people, and their sons had been at my old school 
Kings School, Canterbury. Lady Murphy especially was 
quite intrigued with the quaintness* of the hermitage, and 
looked up its chimney and missed nothing, but was too polite 
to remark on the dirt and dust! They most kindly wanted to 
take me away with them to Nassau on their plane, but I 
couldn t have walked down the hill, because of my elephant s 
leg." 

Eventually he did have to go to Nassau for treatment, leav 
ing his catechist to carry on the Sunday church services, be 
cause no priest could be sent to take his place. By April 6 
he wrote that he had made a marvelous recovery, "eating 
plenty of boiled cabbage, grapefruit, limes, lemons, and a 
concoction of salt and bitter wild sage." He wrote at great 
length about what he was doing, supervising the layout of 
the new monastery and boys college. Much as he longed for 
solitude, he realized that the most acceptable thing to God 
and himself at that moment was to place his architectural 
knowledge of design and building at the service of the Bene 
dictines. It was a big job and entailed plenty of hard work 
and headaches. Fra Jerome consoled himself with the words 
of St. Thrse: "Of itself prayer is of more value than work; 
but it may please God more in a given circumstance to see 
us working rather than praying." 

In order to supervise the building he lived near the site, 
five miles out of Nassau, in an old house called The Hermit 
age that had been left to the Prefect Apostolic of the Ba 
hamas by Cardinal O Connell. It was a beautiful place with 
spacious paneled rooms, dark oak Jacobean fireplaces and 
furniture, and grounds that sloped down to the sea. 

"We are a very happy little community," wrote Fra Jerome. 
"There are four Benedictine lay Brothers, and we rise at 
5 A.M. for meditation, after which I say Mass. Breakfast is at 



"In Journeying* Often . . ." 199 

seven. Then the Brothers go off in a motor lorry to the site. 
Sometimes I go with them, or else work at my drawing board. 
... I have a big bedroom, 24 feet long and 20 wide, with an 
8-foot long table on trestles for my drawing board, and to 
spread out plans. Then there is a 7- by 5-foot hanging cup 
board, too, and even a private bathroom! I have a lovely 
view over the sea, and just before midday I slip down to the 
shore and have a swim. 

"The Brothers say their office from the shortened Breviary 
in English (not the Little Office of Our Lady) , and it is 
most edifying. They recite it slowly and reverently. They 
return from the site at midday, and we talk at dinner. They 
keep on their overalls. But supper at six is properly monastic 
religious habit, silence and reading. 

"When I am beginning my Matins in Latin in a corner of 
the chapel I like hearing the Brothers say the invitatory with 
all the lenten Proper/ As the Brothers say them, the verses 
come with quite a new meaning to me. Alone, one has got 
into the habit, alas, of rushing through the Latin Office with 
out much meditation on what one is saying. I can quite im 
agine that in the future completed abbey church lay visitors 
will be more edified by hearing the Brothers reciting their 
English Office in the crypt than the choir monks chanting 
or reciting the Breviarium Monasticum up above." 

A new road up to the site on Fox Hill had been completed, 
and the summit and slopes of the ridge of hills all cleared. 
The rocky hill rose about sixty feet above the surrounding 
level of plain, and its ridge (about thirty to forty feet) 
twisted east and west. Fra Jerome now realized that there 
was no room for a quadrangular monastery around a four- 
sided cloister with a second quadrangle for the college, so 
he had to scrap his first designs and think out an entirely new 
conception. He decided to follow the exigencies of the nat 
ural site and make use of the varying levels. He knew by 



200 The Hermit of Cat Island 

experience that something suitable and original would de 
velop out of it. 

Father Frederic Frey, representing the Abbot Alcuin 
Deutsch, was the soul of the operations. Fra Jerome said of 
him that "no architect would wish to have a more intelligent 
and efficient co-operator and director than Prior Frederic. He 
stated his requirements clearly, leaving the architect freedom 
of action, discussing every detail and making valuable sug 
gestions all along that helped to make useful alterations and 
practical improvements." They decided that the first section 
would accommodate twenty-five priests, six lay Brothers, and 
fifty students. It would be made up of cells, corridors, refec 
tory, kitchen, and would include the choir of the church over 
a crypt with side chapels. (At the same time Fra Jerome was 
busy making drawings of a new church at the seaside resort 
of Koriot in Australia, as well as plans for a new school in the 
diocese of BallaraL) 

The building was begun almost immediately and had 
progressed far enough for the cornerstone to be laid on July 
11, 1946. Most Reverend Bishop Bernard Kevenhoerster laid 
the first stone of St. Augustine s Monastery and the sermon 
was preached by Bishop Stephen J. Donahue, who had come 
down from New York for the occasion. The venerable archi 
tect was requested, or rather commanded, by his Vicar Apos 
tolic to vest in his aged and moth-eaten prelatical robes for 
the stone-laying function, but there is no evidence that he 
obeyed the command. 

Fra Jerome returned to Cat Island in August to begin 
painting the big mural of Christ s charge to St. Peter on the 
interior wall of the south porch at Freetown. But there was 
no time for any prolonged solitude on Mount Alvernia, for 
in September he and Oblate William McWeeney, who had 
been his guest since the hermit got back from Nassau, boarded 
the mail steamer for Long Island. 



"In Journeying* Often . . ." 201 

Here, at Clarence Town, there was more than enough to 
do on the unfinished church of Sts. Peter and Paul. Window 
traceries had to be made, and the stone proved to be very 
hard and almost impossible to trim. The strength of the 
arches depended on a good cement mixture. It needed con 
stant supervision to get the local "masons" to fill up the joints 
properly. But finally the vaulting of the church was com 
pleted, along with the central tower over the transepts, and 
Fra Jerome made a concrete cross to cap the little dome of 
the lantern. Father Cornelius Osendorf was "a wonderful 
man," so Fra Jerome wrote. "He has all the people with him, 
and is making real good Catholics of them, on the founda 
tions laid by Father Arnold before his death. He works like 
a steam engine, setting out lines, doing mason work, driving 
and keeping in repair the two trucks, the water pump and 
electric plant. Over the weekends he is up and down the 
island visiting his outlying missions, never neglecting the 
spiritual needs for the ever-present material requirements of 
building/* 

One day, early in October, came a telegram that Abbot 
Edmund of the Cistercian Abbey of Valley Falls, Rhode Is 
land, had arrived by plane at Nassau and wanted to see Fra 
Jerome immediately. Without delay the hermit left for Nas 
sau, and discovered that Abbot Edmund needed plans for 
extending the church and for a large new guesthouse. He 
begged Fra Jerome to fly back with him to the United States 
to inspect the existing buildings, but this was quite impos 
sible for the hermit because the ground-floor walls of the 
monastery on Fox Hill were well up by now, and needed 
his attention. 

Throughout November Fra Jerome stayed in the same 
comfortable Benedictine quarters he had occupied before, 
and not only worked on the plans for Our Lady of the 
Valley, Rhode Island, but also completed all the necessary 



202 The Hermit of Cat Island 

detailed plans for the rest of the Fox Hill monastery build 
ings, including the infirmary, refectory, kitchen and the 
church with its crypt and the upper and lower sacristies. In 
addition to all these drawings he made plans for the college 
assembly -hall, garages, laundry and gatehouse, as well as 
sketches for a future technical school. As if all this was not 
enough labor for the seventy-year-old architect, he made scale 
plans for the monastery guest hall and the adjoining native 
Sisters convent on the southwest projecting shoulder of the 
hill. 

Then somehow or other he found time to make and paint 
cedarwood images of "Our Lady Queen of Monks" and St. 
Augustine of Canterbury, which were to be placed on either 
side of the principal altar in the temporary chapel of the 
monastery. In odd moments he carved a complete set of crib 
figures, twenty inches high, for the Holy Redeemer Church, 
Cat Island, and a "black Madonna" for St. Francis , Old 
Bight. Then he set to work and made a large rood to hang 
above the sanctuary arch of the chapel at the Convent of 
Blessed Martin de Porres. Previous to this he had cast the 
concrete columns himself for the west gallery of the chapel, 
and now he went on to decorate the baroque altar frontal. 

How Fra Jerome managed to do all this work in such a 
short time is a mystery, but he noted in his diary that very 
often he did not leave his drawing board until long after 
midnight. "My Guardian Angel helps me," he wrote, "and it 
is wonderful what an old man of seventy, with failing eye 
sight and on all days a splitting headache, can get through." 

When in December he returned to Cat Island he did not 
take any real rest at the hermitage. Much of his time was 
spent in rebuilding the half-ruined cottage and kitchen be 
side the church at Freetown. "All finished in six weeks" is 
his terse comment. 

It was remarkable that the job was finished so rapidly, for 



"In Journeyings Often . . / 203 

according to his letters written at this time the hermit was 
"head and heels in arduous occupations, spiritual and artis 
tic," here, there and everywhere. He preached an Advent 
mission down at Freetown, which resulted in the return of 
a large number of his flock who had joined the "Jumpers 
Pentecostal Church of God." He built a new crib, complete 
with ox, ass, four shepherds, three kings and angels. Crowds 
came after all the Christmas services to gaze in silent wonder 
at the black-faced Madonna and her black pickaninny bam 
bino set in an arched stone grotto and illuminated by many 
candles and votive lamps. After the midnight Mass Fra Je 
rome re-enacted, so far as he could, that Christmas festival at 
the hermitage of Greccio when St. Francis greeted the Divine 
Infant, calling him "Child of Bethlehem" and "Jesus." The 
old hermit cried out the music of the name as if he were 
voicing the worship of the sheep on the Judean hillside, 
bending over the manger caressingly. Then, after a second 
Mass at 7 A.M., still fasting, the old priest walked eight miles 
to St. Francis , Old Bight, for a third Mass at 11 A.M. 

The wonder was that Fra Jerome was still alive. A few 
days before Christmas he had sailed over to Old Bight with 
some food sent him by Bishop Bernard for distribution 
among the poor out islanders. Just as he was in sight of his 
haven the wind suddenly shifted. He was alone in the Roc- 
bird. Knowing that the people were waiting for the Bishop s 
gift, he did not like to turn back to Old Bight Creek, since 
it would have been a long way for them to transport the 
heavy parcels. So he ran the boat s bow square ashore, lower 
ing the sail and throwing the grapnel out. Then a big wave 
caught her stern and broached her to, and in a minute she 
swamped. Until that moment, so he wrote, he had not the 
strength even to help lift just one end of a bag of flour, "but 
when you haven t time to think you are too feeble to <jk> a 
thing it is wonderful what necessity can make you do. 



204 The Hermit of Cat Island 

"I was up to my chest in water, but hauled a soaked 100- 
pound bag of flour out of the boat s well and carried it, wad 
ing ashore and up the steep bank of sand, then back for the 
second one, then a bag of brown sugar. A wooden box of 
groceries was floating to and fro in the well, and another with 
tobacco leaf in it, and a box of pork, and then two large bags 
of cement. One burst as I carried it, and a wave broke over 
me. There was nobody there to meet me. Just in time I 
rescued an oar floating away. Then I lost my tin baling can, 
and tried to use my palm, but more water came in than 
any little bit I threw out, and broadside on the boat rolled 
helplessly from side to side. I prayed hard to my Guardian 
Angel, and then suddenly a head appeared over the green 
bushes and the sea-grape creepers. Two sturdy women and 
two good-sized boys. What s more, they had a pail. 

" Tou s not gwine ter sail back in dis weather, your lone 
self? one of the women asked. 

" Yes, I am/ I replied, if I can get the boat off/ 

"The women kept the boat heeled over toward the shore 
by hauling on the halyard, and the boys held the lee gunwale 
down while I baled with the pail. Finally, after a terrific 
struggle, we pushed the boat s bow off the sand and out sea 
wards, and up to my neck in water I managed to hang the 
rudder. We all shoved, and I threw myself over the gunwale, 
seized the oars and got beyond the play of the breakers. I 
stood on the f orepeak and hoisted the sail (well reefed down) , 
and waved Good-by. The wind had now backed still more 
due north and dead ahead against me, and a terrible-look 
ing sky overhead, with great, rolling, heavy black clouds. 
The boat so often missed stays in the choppy sea that I found 
it was no good taking short tacks near shore, so I ran right 
out to sea in one long beat. Sudden squalls hit me, torrents 
of rain fell. I was just shivering and shaking with cold. I held 
the tiller with one hand, the main sheet given a hitch around 



"In Journeying* Often . . ." 205 

the tiller, and stooping down baled with the other. It took all 
my vigilance and a bit of seamanship to meet each sudden 
puff luffing right up and letting the sheet run out, 

"It was now nearly dark. Far away I saw a big sailboat, the 
Eurydice, running before the wind, hugging the shore, mak 
ing for Old Bight Creek. This was my third long tack, and I 
said to myself if I don t weather Cottage Point on this tack 
I must give up and turn around and run to Old Bight Creek, 
too. I could hardly see the shore, because night had fallen. 
At last it loomed up close ahead. I ran in and to my joy and 
wonder found I was now about a quarter of a mile to wind 
ward of the rocky promontory of Cottage Point. From then 
on I was in more sheltered water, and took short tacks hug 
ging the shore, and eventually sailed into the smooth, pro 
tected water off Freetown, and came comfortably to my 
anchorage at 9 P.M. The rain had stopped and a bit of moon 
lighted up the shore." 

Adventures like this one took their toll of the old man. 
By the middle of January 1947 Fra Jerome was back again in 
Nassau, and, considering the mental and physical strain of 
all he had gone through, it was not surprising that Bishop 
Bernard was alarmed at the state of his health and insisted 
that he must see a doctor. The diagnosis was an enlarged 
heart, and complete rest was prescribed. The aged invalid 
merely remarked, "Well, to be big-hearted is no detriment, 
even if the same pumping engine has shifted a bit over to 
port, showing the red light! But the doctor said I was quite 
sound otherwise, and I need no drugs for the old heart." 

It is hardly necessary to add that Fra Jerome did not obey 
the doctor s orders. He had not been at Nassau very long be 
fore Bishop Donahue arrived from New York, chartered a 
large special plane, and flew with a party of eighteen priests 
and nuns to Long Island for the blessing of the new Church 
of Sts. Peter and Paul on January 27. Of course Fra Jerome 



206 The Hermit of Cat Island 

could not be left behind. This pleasure jaunt was followed by 
more work: the carving of two large gargoyles to carry off. 
rain water from part of the roof of the rapidly rising monas 
tery. In more than one letter he said that he was "very tired 
and suffering from an almost perpetual headache." 

On March 1 1 Abbot Alcuin Deutsch blessed the completed 
sections of the monastery and college, in the presence of 
Bishop Bernard, His Excellency the Governor of the Ba 
hamas, and a large, enthusiastic crowd. 

Headache or no headache, Fra Jerome kept on working. 
He busied himself with the concrete traceried windows for 
the chapter hall, and the pre-cast ornamental buttress scrolls 
for the stair turret top. With Prior Frederic he decorated 
the three bays of the quadripartite vault of the chapter hall, 
The hermit found it "rather nerve-racking" to stand all 
day on a shaky scaffolding, straining his neck to do overhead 
painting. Among other projects he produced a cardboard 
scale model of the future monastery church, complete even 
to the interior details. 

He noted in his diary that he was "doing too much work, 
and, often having to break off to lie down flat on my back, I 
could not keep up any proper observance of my Rule. It was 
no good joining the Benedictines in choir, as I say a different 
Office from theirs, and it would only be a distraction. I could 
not rise for my regular midnight meditation and Matins, 
although I was very often working away under the electric 
light until the early hours of the morning. As to meals, I 
adapt the immediate circumstances to the Franciscan Rule 
of eat such things as are set before you/ With so few teeth 
I am a very slow eater, but have to put down all I can to keep 
up strength and energy for the work to be done. My manner 
of living may be temperate and frugal, but that is not mortifi 
cation in the true sense, . . . Alas! May God forgive me, the 
poor undisciplined vagrant hermit. I throw myself into all 



7n Journeying* Often . . ." 207 

this architectural work with zeal and much labor because it 
is so congenial to me art first, prayer second, alas! I am what 
St. Benedict terms the worst sort of monk a vagrant/ What 
advance in the spiritual life have I made?" 

Life had become something utterly different from what 
he dreamed of before he left Australia for the Bahamas. He 
had built a lovely hermitage, but now he seldom had time 
to occupy it, and even when he did, his life was not that of 
a true solitary. 

It was not until June 10, 1947, that Fra Jerome returned 
to Gat Island. The chapter-house wing of the monastery had 
been completed, and the southwest tower of the church was 
rising, so all the rest was plain sailing for the builders. But 
no sooner had he arrived at Freetown than he set to work 
on the three remaining nave arches and gables of the church. 
By the time he was able to retire to his hermitage he was so 
exhausted that he "let everything go anyhow for two months 
no rule or horarium just rest and eat and sleep and pray." 
But he could not bear the sight of solid food, and subsisted 
mainly on Ovaltine and condensed milk mixed up cold with 
"lots of Eno s fruit salt/ What worried Him more than his 
lack of appetite was that he believed that this diet was "very 
extravagant and luxurious/ 

But Fra Jerome was incapable of really resting completely. 
His assurances to worried Mends in England were offset by 
accounts of weekend sails in the Rocbird to and from Old 
Bight, where he energetically heard confessions, baptized, 
preached and instructed converts. One Sunday during his 
period of "rest" he rose from his board bed to celebrate Mass 
at 6:30 A.M., then walked nearly two miles to the beach, 
pulled in the trip line on the anchor, hoisted sail and, after 
a fifty-minute run with a fair breeze, landed at Freetown for 
a second Mass at ten-thirty. It was not until after midday 
that he at last lit a fire to prepare his breakfast. "Not a bad 



208 The Hermit of Cat Island 

Sunday morning s work for an old man of seventy-one with 
a weak heart and perpetual pain in his stomach!" 

Not a bad morning s work indeed, but Fra Jerome s devo 
tion to his people was only exceeded by theirs for him. He 
noted lovingly that, "Hermit as I am, and going in and out 
so little among the island people, I never got to know those 
in Australia or in London so intimately as I know my little 
Catholic flock here. They seem bone of my bone and flesh 
[of my flesh], I feel such intimate sympathy with them and 
pity for them; and I think I now understand them." 

Such sentiments were tempered, however, by an occasional 
caustic remark on church ceremonials. To Charles Selby- 
Hall, who had written him of his visit to Einsiedeln Abbey 
in Switzerland, he remarked, "How I should love the Ein 
siedeln Gregorian chant, frills and all, because I have a big 
corner in my artistic heart for everything baroque! I should 
revel in the orchestral Gounod High Mass on festivals what 
a nice change it would be! The Westminster wail can be 
come too monotonous. I suppose that s why the Cathedral 
authorities removed Eric Gill s carving of St. Thomas More s 
poor little monkey? The wail would have been too much for 
it cruelty to animals! 1 

Fra Jerome needed his sense of humor when on July 20 
the sacristy of the church at Freetown caught fire and, along 
with all its contents, was reduced to ashes. Somehow or other 
he found the strength to take this setback serenely and to be 
gin at once the rebuilding of the sacristy. Further, he designed 
and painted an eight-foot mural for the church showing 
Christ giving the keys to St. Peter, with crowds of figures, 
sheep and a three-masted sailing ship in the background. 
By September he had completed the plans for the Cistercian 
monastery in Rhode Island and had made perspective sketches 
for the exterior and interior of the abbey church at Fox Hill. 

"If you have four missions to serve and no curates, and 



"In Journeying* Often . . / 209 

the people still have souls, you can t lie on your back all 
day," he wrote. "So I do everything that an old man of sev 
enty-one who is supposed to have a weak heart ought not to 
do. I sail my boat across the Bight alone in squally weather, 
get soaked through and chilled and mirabile! I feel ever 
so much better for it the next morning. All this past week 
I ve been climbing up and down ladders on the scaffolding 
of the church roof and any time I get giddy and feel my heart 
acting too evidently as an internal-combustion engine, then 
I obey the doctor s orders at once, and retire into the house 
to take things easy/ Up at the hermitage I live my Franciscan 
life as a solitary, but when I ve said my Office and other re 
ligious exercises, not having gifts of the Higher Contempla 
tion and not being favored with ecstasies, bilocations and levi- 
tations to pass my spare time away what am I to do? I can t 
sit down and twiddle my thumbs; hence I drift into the afore 
said maiHigi. labors for the good of my neighbors and for the 
love of God." 

At the end of one letter he remarked with an almost audible 
chuckle, "P.S. I am realizing the blessings of old age packing 
up for the last journey when you can take nothing with you. 
So the blessings of loss are that I am gradually losing every 
thing in turn. 

"Loss of teeth protection against gluttony. 

" " " hearing freedom from idle talk. 

" " " speech can t be asked to preach in Nassau since 
I ve only an inaudible cracked whisper. 

" " " memory absolves you from keeping appoint 
ments! 
"etc., etc., et reliqua." 

Toward the end of September 1947 the backwash of a great 
hurricane passed over Mount Alvernia with such strong 
winds that Fra Jerome dared not open his door for a whole 
day and night. But the hurricane had the rather odd effect 



210 The Hermit of Cat Island 

of restoring his appetite, so he said, and he found himself able 
to eat quite substantial meals again. His voice, however, had 
not improved, and he was able only to reprove and exhort 
his flock in whispers: "My little children love one another; 
live a new life in Christ, forgiving one another. Don t go to 
law with another. Flee fornication, drunkenness, revelings 
and such like; bridle the tongue/ 

The hermit continued to drive himself, but his strength 
was not what it had been. He confessed that he had no energy, 
that his exertions tired him dreadfully, that even a small 
amount of correspondence was a great burden. Poor Fra 
Jerome. What wore him out more than anything else was 
the responsibility he felt for the souls of the islanders. He 
could not put their troubles out of his mind and brooded 
over them continually. His people and their problems were 
a perpetual distraction to the old man and no matter how 
hard he tried to leave everything in the hands of God, he 
found it far from easy. 

His Sunday sermons which he now found so difficult to 
preach haunted him beforehand. If only he had the "gift of 
gab" like the Negro preachers! Even teen-age boys, he re 
marked, reveled in preaching at the "Jumper" meetings. 
His discouragement was so intense that he was glad to shake 
the dust of Freetown from his sandals on a Sunday evening. 
As he toiled up the slope of Mount Alvernia he felt as if he 
never wanted to descend again. 

"All in Freetown is lies, duplicity, cunning, ignorance and 
covetousness," he wrote. "To me the place is Pergamos where 
the devil s seat is. Where Satan dwelleth, he staggers me with 
one blow after another. . . . All this past Lent and Eastertide 
... I have constantly denounced the real idolatry of covetous- 
ness and fornication, perjury and Obeah superstitions, and 
my words are carried far beyond the churchyard and merely 
raise hatred and jealousy." 



"In Journeyings Often . . ." 211 

The truth was that Fra Jerome was tired out. "I find even 
writing a letter is a terrible effort. I have to break off con 
tinually and lie down flat on my back. My stomach gives pain 
if I go on too long without food at regular hours, so I have 
put forward prandium to twelve noon, then I take a light 
supper at 6 P.M. of bread, tea (with milk). I sleep such a lot, 
not holding with the doctrine and practice of the Egyptian 
hermit Macarius who slept for only one hour out of the 
twenty-four. I am ashamed to say that I lie down and doze 
in the morning and take a siesta every afternoon. Bishop 
O Collins writes to me: Thousands in these days of upheaval 
and turmoil would envy you the peace of your hermitage/ 
but I find that a hermit s vocation is not, in the Holy Ghost, 
all joy and peace, but rather a participation in the sorrow of 
the cross." 

So the hermit ended his diary on a "scorching hot August 
day," as he sat gazing over the ocean, empty now of the big 
ships that had passecj before him in the war years. Once again 
he reiterated his concern for his people. "But when, when 
will I be able to visit my out missions? Old Bight, Port Howe 
and Baintown? I worry over them all the time. When I was 
younger and stronger I used to sail sixty-four miles round 
trip there and back by sea, or forty miles round-trip walking. 
Now it s impossible, but the Bishop has no priest he can 
spare, so what can I do but pray?" 

The same note of weariness is apparent in a letter written 
to Bishop O Collins on May 7, 1948, in which Fra Jerome 
says, "But don t think that Cat Island is an earthly Paradise 
however lovely the colors of the sea and the waving coconut 
palms! Millions might fancy envying my peaceful retreat on 
the top of Mount Alvernia, but they would soon find it none 
too far away a refuge from Freetown and other settlements of 
the Bight where the devil goes about as a roaring lion amidst 
cunning thieves and liars, religious hypocrites and false 



212 The Hermit of Cat Island 

prophets, rejoicing in fornication, drunkenness, wife-beating, 
witchcraft, knifings and killings. The world flood of unbelief 
and materialism is breaking its waves even on the shores of 
these faraway isles of the sea. * 



12. 



The Artist at Work 



WRITING in Liturgical Arts (August 1954), Maurice Lavanoux 
remarked: "It would be easy and, I feel, futile to evaluate Fra 
Jerome s architectural work in the light of rigid critical 
norms; this would falsify the value of his work, for it contains 
elements architects too often lack when working for the 
Church humility, a deep love for and an understanding of 
the liturgy, a feeling for proportion. And when one realizes 
the poverty and economy of means with which Fra Jerome 
had to cope, it must be admitted that his achievements are 
really fine. It is on the level of what is called liturgical cor 
rectness that Fra Jerome gives us all an object lesson. It is 
more than mere correctness; it is the substance of the liturgy 
in visual form that emerges from his planning and designs of 
sanctuaries and altars." 

What Mr. Lavanoux writes is perfectly true: it is "futile to 
evaluate Fra Jerome s architectural work in the light of rigid 
critical norms," because most of it is so far removed from the 
work of any of his contemporary professional architects. 
Somehow or other what strikes one when studying his 
churches and other buildings is that almost all of them pos 
sess a subtle yet indefinable Franciscan quality of joyous 
spontaneity and simplicity of heart. Designing churches was 

213 



214 The Hermit of Cat Island 

"great fun" even if they were intended for the worship of 
God. One can picture Fra Jerome, even before he became a 
hermit, standing at his drawing board or laboring with his 
own hands, mixing cement or building a wall, saying to him 
self in the words of St. Francis to Brother Leo when explain 
ing to him what is perfect joy: "Above all the graces and gifts 
of the Holy Ghost which Christ grants to His friends, there is 
that of overcoming themselves and gladly for the love of 
Christ bearing pain, insults, disgrace, and discomfort, because 
we cannot glory in any of the other gifts of God they are not 
ours, but God s. Therefore the Apostle says: What have you 
received that you have not received from God, and why do 
you glory as if you have received it? " * 

Fra Jerome found the "perfect joy" in his architectural 
work, not alone from artistic satisfaction, but because it was 
one of the means by which he could take with good cheer the 
punishments which he knew he deserved for his human 
frailties. He gave himself to the work of building or rebuild 
ing churches because it was one of the obvious ways in which 
he could fulfill his Franciscan vocation. He had to make use 
of the talents given him by God and practice his particular 
craft for the good of his soul. St. Francis told him that he 
would be blessed if he labored with his hands, and that was 
enough for him. 

His architectural work can be divided into four main 
groups: 

(1) 1897-1908: Anglican churches and other buildings 
in England. 

(2) 1909-1911: Anglican churches in the Bahamas. 

(3) 1915-1939: Cathedrals, churches, convents, etc, in 
Australia. 

(4) 1940-1956: Churches and other buildings designed 
for the Bahamas and elsewhere, 

1 James Meyer, O J?.M,, The Words of St. Francis (Chicago, 1952), p. 15. 



The Artist at Work 215 

Fra Jerome s architectural opinions in his latter years can 
be found in a long article he contributed to Liturgical Arts 
(November 1950) entitled "Scratchings of a Cat Islander: 
An Attempt to Rediscover Reality in Architecture." Here are 
some o his statements: 

"What is my theory of building? Well! just to follow na 
ture, and the nature of a thing, and not to coerce it. The 
hermit s eyrie lair where I dwell just grows naturally out of 
the rock. You can hardly distinguish where God s rock begins. 
The chapel and the little rooms are all on different levels so 
you have to step up and down. Old and infirm as I am, that 
does not bother me; I can find my way in the dark and know 
exactly where to lay my hand on anything I want. The front 
of the little house shears off at an irregular angle from the 
chapel. 

"Why is all so crooked and irregular? Is it fancy or a dilet 
tante craze to be picturesque? Not at all! Firstly, it is because 
it is fitted on to the rocky summit of the hill, just where it 
would go. Secondly, because the effective operating reason is 
that I was my own master and had no client to boss and tell 
me, Build it straight and keep your rectangles or I ll get an 
other architect/ " 

So he would laugh, and say that had any sensible architect 
such as one who sun bathes in huge oblongs of plate glass as 
the base for his reinforced concrete walls, designed the her 
mitage, he would have leveled the whole area of the hill s 
summit with plenty of dynamite, so as to create a sensible 
flat plateau. Then with his T-square and right-angle triangle 
he would have built a house on any sort of convenient plan, 
and would have made it look like a suburban villa in a civil 
ized city. 

" Tour hermitage is all right to gape at, but not to live 
in, you say, it s so inconvenient! Maybe. But here s my de- 



216 The Hermit of Cat Island 

fense, which goes back scores of years to the debunked Vic 
torian era. In my cradle I was taught that Britains never 
will be slaves (except, of course, to a socialist state in 1950). 
Now in my second childhood I rebel against the trumpeted 
march of progress: I won t be a slave to modern conven 
iences." 

To understand Fra Jerome s theories of building it is es 
sential to remember that when he was a student of architec 
ture in the eighteen nineties there had been a violent reaction 
from fonnal classicism. John Hawes, like all other young 
men of his day, was caught up on the fast-running tide of 
simplicity and naturalness in building. Architects who learned 
their trade in that decade, or who started to practice it early 
in the twentieth century, invariably kept one eye on the 
picturesque. "The little rooms on different levels" of his her 
mitage on Cat Island, its "irregular angles," and the feeling 
that it had grown up out of the natural rock are just the sort 
of qualities which the disciples of Philip Webb (1831-1915) 
were striving after more than sixty years ago. As H. S. Good- 
hart-Rendel remarks, "They had built cottages most primi 
tively planned with rooms reached only one out of the other, 
and with ladders instead of staircases . . . unconventional 
little whitewashed houses, bashfully virgin in their simplic 
ity, that were beginning to be illustrated in the pages of The 
Studio. . . . The charm of their innocent unsophistication 
cannot be denied." 2 

The earliest buildings designed by John Hawes were a de 
liberate imitation of the domestic architecture of Charles 
Voysey (1857-1941). He records that he greatly admired 
their picturesque, low, white, rough-cast walls, low windows, 
leaded-light casements, and green slated roofs. At Bognor, Sus 
sex, Hawes emulated Voysey s work in the seaside cottages 

2 H. S. Goodhart-Rendel, English Architecture since the Regency (London, 
1953), pp. 193, 196. / V 



The Artist at Work 217 

and houses he designed, but for others he adopted a Queen 
Anne treatment of red sanded bricks, white-sashed windows, 
and wide, dentelated roof cornices. His most original house 
was The White Tower, with four rooms one above the other, 
a side staircase and a flat roof giving a view over the sea. 
This house was made the subject of a drawing by Raffles 
Davison in The British Architect, with a most flattering ac 
count of "the promising young architect." It was in keeping 
with Hawes s temperament that he put a few bits of orna 
mental or grotesque carving of his own into most of his 
houses and cottages. For two of them he and one of his 
brothers painted overmantel panels, with knights in armor 
or Spanish galleons in full sail. 

Faithful to the teaching of his former teachers, Professor 
Lethaby and Professor Prior, young Hawes abhorred the 
copying of medieval Gothic details. Late in his life he main 
tained that the village church he had designed in 1899 at 
Gunnerton, Northumberland, was as good as anything he 
had done since, and wrote: "The steep-pitched hipped roof 
of the chancel sheers above that of the nave, the wide, round- 
arched windows welcome the southern sunshine while the 
north wall is a blank. The dark blue-gray tint of the hammer- 
dressed whinstone from the local quarry gives the rough walls 
an ageless look that blends with the rocky slope dropping 
steeply to an ever rushing burn (stream). Entering, you 
would mistake it for a Catholic church, with its stone altar, 
tapering tabernacle, and six tall candlesticks, its rood beam 
and twin ambones." 

Next came the Gothic gatehouse and adjoining small 
chapel at Alton Abbey, Hampshire, which hardly does credit 
to the architect. The large cruciform church which he de 
signed here for the Anglican Order of St. Paul was never 
built, or, more correctly, Hawes s designs were greatly modi 
fied by another architect. 



218 The Hermit of Cat Island 

The brick chapel added to Painsthorpe Hall, Yorkshire, 
in 1902, which then served as a monastery for the Anglican 
Benedictine monks, was quite unpretentious. Yet, like the 
little church at Gunnerton, it possesses that particular Hawes 
quality of looking as if it had grown up spontaneously. 

Just as at Gunnerton, so, too, in the guesthouse on Caldey 
Island, built in 1906, the hammer-dressed blue-gray lime 
stone gives the rough walls of this curious castellated struc 
ture an ageless look. It is a part of the cliff on which it stands. 
All the details were inspired by those of medieval buildings 
on the mainland of South Wales. The unimaginative gate 
house, often referred to as The House of Retreat, which was 
never built, was planned with Cistercian simplicity, even if 
Hawes allowed the Anglican Benedictines a tall bell tower 
and a massive entrance tower the Romanesque details of 
which look as if they had been copied from any history of 
English medieval architecture. 

The great abbey, planned to accommodate more than a 
hundred monks, never got further than paper and a card 
board model. Here the young architect arranged the domestic 
buildings around a large cloister garth, with the church on 
the north side of the enclosure. The drawings show a nave 
of ten bays, two transepts, an apsidal chancel, ambulatory, 
and five projective apsidal chapels. There are two western 
towers, and another much loftier tower with a broach spire 
over the south transept. It is obvious that Hawes found most 
of his ideas in the English cathedrals of the eleventh and 
twelfth centuries, or in some of the Romanesque churches 
he had studied in France. Had Dom Aelred Carlyle ever 
found the money to erect this abbey, it would have been the 
largest group of modern monastic buildings in Britain. 

When John Hawes arrived in the Bahamas early in 1909 
he realized at once that the only hope for any permanent im- 



The Artist at Work 219 

munity from hurricane damage lay in stone or concrete roofs. 
But, as he remarked, "the latter were out of the question be 
cause the salt-laden air soon penetrated through to any metal 
reinforcement, cracking and disintegrating the cement." He 
saw that some of the reinforced concrete buildings in Nassau 
had failed to stand up to the force of the hurricane of the 
previous year, so he decided that the only course was to get 
back to the simplicity of primitive building methods. 

His first experiment with "rock roofs" was on the big Lady 
chapel of the ruined church at Deadman s Cay, Long Island. 
The whole of this Anglican church had to be rebuilt. Now, 
for the first time, he fell under the spell of Spanish baroque, 
or rather the form it took when transplanted to Central and 
South America. Over the high altar at Deadman s Cay arose 
a baldachino with four Doric columns. The chancel and 
nave were divided by a rood screen. The whole scheme was 
eclectic and exotic. The new and fascinating tropical environ 
ment provided an inspiration which the architect had never 
found in England. Even more splendid and ambitious was 
the replanned church of St. Paul, Clarence Town, which was 
Spanish baroque in style with twin towers at its western end. 
Besides restoring four Anglican churches on Long Island, 
Brother Jerome designed a baldachino for St. Matthew s, 
Nassau, and an altar for the Holy Souls Chapel in St. Mary s 
in the same town. 

The drawing of St. Francis Chapel, Graymoor, New York, 
which Hawes made in March 1911, shows a simple little 
roughcast building raised, by reason of the ground level, over 
open brick arches. The curiously planned squat tower looks 
as if it might have been inspired by some of the eighteenth- 
century Franciscan mission churches in California, just as 
those of St. Paul s, Clarence Town, appear to have been 
taken from the mission at Santa Barbara (1786). The odd- 



220 The Hermit of Cat Island 

looking curved-stepped buttress on one side of the tower is 
reminiscent of the pediment details of the facade in the Mis 
sion of San Luis Rey (1798). 

On his return from Canada in 1912, Hawes added a sanc 
tuary, north aisle and bell tower to the Catholic Church of 
the Holy Rosary, Sutton, Surrey. The tall, narrow Gothic 
windows, and above all the steep-pitched roof over the lofty 
apsidal sanctuary, are obviously German Gothic in inspira 
tion, evoking memories of the Frauenkirche, Nuremberg, 
or Erfurt Cathedral. There is a vague German flavor about 
the bell tower. 

Western Australia was both the best and the worst field 
for the practice of architecture when John Hawes arrived 
there in 1915. To all intents and purposes it was virgin soil. 
Most of the Catholic churches resembled those which he 
caricatured for the amusement of his friends at home. Very 
few of the priests shared the enlightened ideas of Bishop 
Kelly, who had already asked Father Hawes to prepare de 
signs for a cathedral at Geraldton, which was to be round, 
with the seats converging on the high altar. After eight years 
of struggling against prevailing ideas, Father Hawes became 
disillusioned and felt that there was no hope for the improve 
ment of Catholic churches. 

"I know perfectly well what the clergy really desire/ he 
wrote critically, "i.e., an imitation Gothic, geometrical deco 
rated* a church with steep-pitched roof and ornamental 
parapet or buttresses; these three especially, even though they 
buttress nothing, since there is no vault but the walls securely 
tied in and secured from thrust by the tie beams of an open- 
timber roof. But they must have their pet flying buttresses, 
also their spires, although by the time the towers for them 
rise to roof level all the building enthusiasm and flow of 
donations will probably have ebbed away. 7 
Enclosed with this letter were some sketches, entitled "Aus- 



The Artist at Work 221 

tralian Ecclesiastical Architecture," with the comment, "This 
is the acceptable type." 

To relieve himself of his feeling of frustration he described 
the "New R. C. Church at Wyldcatchem a very chaste de 
sign in the early Gothic style which reflects great credit on 
the talented architects. . . . 

"N.B. The same design all in tin can be supplied 25 per 
cent cheaper. Green plate-glass windows, without the gable 
crosses, and it is equally suitable for Church of England, 
Methodist chapel, Salvation Army hall, Miner s Institute, or 
Masonic Temple/* 

Then beneath a sketch we read the ironical words, "This 
elegant window above the altar resembles those of Cologne 
Cathedral and St Peter s, Rome. It is glazed with tinted 
cathedral glass of variegated colors, and is not surpassed by 
any of the Gothic masterpieces of the old country. St. Patrick 
is shown in the center light." 

Nevertheless, the great cathedral at Geraldton was being 
built, and in spite of strong objections raised by Bishop Ryan, 
who disliked almost every detail of its plan and details, once 
Dr. O Collins became Bishop of the see in 1929 it was com 
pleted more or less according to the original designs. 

St. Francis Xavier s Cathedral is a far cry from the "New 
R. C. Church at Wyldcatchem." The former is best described 
as a brilliant rechauffe. The sources of almost every one of 
its contrasting features can be found in the illustrations of 
Sir Banister Fletcher s monumental History of Architecture 
on the Comparative Method. At the same time, when one 
examines this cathedral, it is obvious that John Hawes, dur 
ing those three years spent in Rome, had not confined himself 
to the study of philosophy and theology. When wandering 
around Italy during the college vacations he had kept his eyes 
open, and he remembered later the churches he had seen. 

The huge dome looks rather like a flatter version of the 



222 The Hermit of Cat Island 

one designed by Brunelleschi for the Cathedral of Florence, 
and, like it, the Geraldton dome covers an octagonal space 
between the nave and chancel. The prototype of the round 
windows in the walls of the octagon can be traced to the 
Florence cathedral. The twin-domed towers at the west end 
are a fairly close copy of those at the California Mission of 
Santa Barbara. The recessed pediment between the towers 
recalls that of many a baroque church in Mexico or Peru, 
whereas the great central portal is French Romanesque in 
detail. 

The round arches of the nave are supported on squat, un- 
fluted columns of excessive bulk pure English Romanesque 
of the eleventh century. The zebra striping on the walls 
and arches reminds one of the interior of the Siena cathedral. 
The early Renaissance canopied pulpit projecting from one 
of the walls of the octagon must have been copied from 
similar ones in Italian churches. The canons stalls, with neo- 
Gothic canopies, occupy the apse. The bishop s throne at 
the side of the sanctuary is ornately baroque, as are the 
candlesticks of the long, stone high altar. It has no gradin, 
but behind the large domed tabernacle rises an immense 
Gothic crucifix, probably inspired by the famous Volto Santo 
in the Lucca cathedral, except that there are statues of Our 
Lady and St. John beside it. 

Father Hawes let his imagination run riot in this striking 
cathedral. He sought inspiration from all periods of archi 
tecture, picking and choosing according to his fancy. There 
is Byzantine carving on some of the capitals supporting the 
great arches of the octagon; and the quaint little round tower 
with its conical roof that juts out at the east end of the build 
ing evokes memories of some early French Renaissance 
cMteau on the banks of the Loire. Yet one is not conscious 
of a clash of details. 

In the early twenties, shortly after his return to Australia 



The Artist at Work 223 

from his first holiday in Europe, Father Hawes found himself 
free to design a church without the need to conform to the 
opinions of a client. "I am building into these stones at Mul- 
lewa," he wrote, "poor little feeble work as it is, my con 
victions, aspirations and ideals as to what a church should 
be ideas flatly antagonistic to the prevalent notions over 
here: 

"(1) That a church should be monumental; therefore, 
dome, stone vaults, thick walls, massive columns an heir 
loom for the ages, however small and humble. Here we op 
pose the adoration of the useful/ 

"(2) That where it cannot all be completed at once, God s 
part should be built first: the altar and the house of the altar 
(ara, et domus ara). Let the people continue in their tem 
porary tin part or look in at the windows. The first thing 
is to make a permanent resting place for the tabernacle a 
real home for Jesus and Mary. 

"(3) That symmetrical arrangement of parts; their me 
chanical perfection and smoothness of finish are not artistic 
necessities. 

"(4) That a tower is a necessity, not an extravagance, and 
the music of its bells is A.M.D.G. 

"(5) Orientation: the church must lie east and west. 

"I am building my heart into these stones and it is as likely 
as not (and perhaps to the greater glory of God) a broken 
heart at the end! Frustrated, disappointed, disillusioned; but 
I hope resigned and more detached from earthly things/* 

St. Mary s the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel 
and Sts. Peter and Paul was the expression of the baroque 
and rococo architecture of Central America which Father 
Hawes was immersed in at that time. On this small village 
church he really let himself go, indulging his whimsical fan 
cies. He described it as "of a Romanesque type, somewhat 
after that of the churches of southern France when the Ro- . 



224 The Hermit of Cat Island 

manesque was in a state of transition to the Gothic. The ex 
terior . . . reminiscent of the Spanish Franciscan mission 
churches of California. ... It can boast no polished marbles 
or glittering mosaics, but if the visitor finds the building 
pleasing it is because of its rough stone walls and the com 
plete absence of hard mechanical finish." 

He explained that he had attempted "to reflect (however 
feebly) some of the romance and quaintness of those old, old 
churches of the past that were full of such marvels as we 
shall never see again." And, with an eye on ritual, the plan 
and arrangement of the church had been strictly designed to 
meet all liturgical requirements. 

The entrance door of the west front of St. Mary s was 
flanked by three "barbaric-looking" spiral fluted columns on 
either side with one in the center, representing the seven pil 
lars of wisdom. Along the frieze above the columns Father 
Hawes arranged a series of eleven carved panels portraying 
the seven sacraments, with the three central panels devoted 
to the Holy Eucharist as sacrament, sacrifice and Real Pres 
ence. The red tiles of the roof supported fierce-looking gar 
goyles which carried off the rain water, and the tall cam 
panile terminated in a highly original airy octagonal lantern, 
buttressed with pinnacles at its base. The bell tower had 
seven bells, the smaller ones hung in the open arches. 

Two inverted cup-shaped domes one over the circular 
baptistery, the other above the sanctuary increased the bi 
zarre effect of the exterior of the church. The north porch 
was a curious mingling of Celtic and Spanish details. 

Inside the building the riot of furnishing was almost over 
whelming. The nave of five bays was spanned by transverse 
pointed arches that supported the roof timbering. A small 
choir gallery had been constructed over the porch, and in 
the center of the little baptistery the font was surmounted 



The Artist at Work 225 

by a baldachfno with four columns. Beside the baptistery 
folding doors shut off a tiny rock grotto for the Christmas 
Crib. A rood cross hung suspended from the arch above the 
entrance to the domed sanctuary. The high altar was a stone 
sarcophagus of a baroque form, and behind the altar was an 
elaborate baroque reredos. Above the domed tabernacle 
Father Hawes placed a painting of Our Lady of Mount Car- 
mel, and still higher a lofty exposition throne. Over all hung 
a gilded tester or baldachin. The dome was painted blue, 
powdered with gold stars, with a large silver dove with out 
spread wings. The large stone paschal candlestand of classic 
design was carved after that in the Basilica of Sts. Nereus and 
Achilleus on the Appian Way outside Rome. To the north 
and south of the sanctuary were two chapels, dedicated to St. 
Michael and St. Joseph respectively; the latter with a stone 
altar and reredos of Gothic design; the former a type of early 
Christian altar found in the Roman catacombs. 

On either side of the nave, just within the communion 
rails, were two more altars. The holy rood altar had a retable 
in flamboyant French Gothic, framing a Pieta. There were 
carved wooden angels, painted and gilded, on the four corner 
posts of the altar. The Lady altar had a lofty canopy of 
Romanesque form. The Sacred Heart shrine, against one of 
the arch piers, contained a wooden statue, carved after the 
model of the Sacr-Goeur, Paris. There was yet another altar 
dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Most of the windows were 
filled with stained glass. One of the most unexpected details 
of this little church was a "squint" through the thick wall to 
enable the bell ringer to see the elevation of the Host at the 
high altar, and to toll the bell accordingly. 

Such is St. Mary s, Mullewa, which was the most extraor 
dinary church ever designed by John Cyril Hawes, and 
which expressed his whole personality and his eclectic taste 



226 The Hermit of Cat Island 

in matters of art. What he was striving for is summed up in 
the concluding paragraph of the descriptive souvenir booklet 
he wrote. 

"If a church carries an atmosphere of prayer and induces 
a religious mood, an uplifting of the soul, so that merely to 
enter within its portals helps people to pray if everything 
around seems to emphasize the fact of the Divine Presence 
dwelling with the tabernacle upon the altar then, and then 
only, can the building be said to fulfill its purpose." 

John Hawes, like Ninian Comper, the well-known English 
ecclesiastical architect, was essentially romantic in tempera 
ment. Both architects in their middle age came to see that 
beauty can be found only by inclusion, not by exclusion. The 
latter relates that in 1908 he chanced to pick up a copy of 
George Wyndham s The Springs of Romance in the Litera 
ture of Europe, and was struck by the fact that, just as in 
literature, so, too, in architecture unity is achieved best by 
comprehension. Father Hawes had absorbed primitive Chris 
tian architecture in Ireland, as well as the marvels of Spanish 
Gothic, baroque and rococo. His artistic "conversion" was 
complete, and from this time he realized the full meaning 
of the doctrine of beauty by comprehension and put it into 
practice. He broke away from convention, and from 1933 
until his death his buildings showed no trace of pervading 
insularity; they were truly catholic, in the sense that they 
were all-embracing and of wide sympathies. 

None of the many other churches in Australia designed by 
Father Hawes were so ornate as St. Mary s. Among the less 
elaborate was St. Laurence the Martyr, Bluff Point, Gerald- 
ton (1937), a simple little cruciform building with a flat dome 
over the octagonal central tower, with a faint flavor of early 
Italian Renaissance. Holy Cross Church, Morawa (1933), also 
evoked memories of Italy, and in particular of San Domenico 
at Siena, perhaps because of the wide aisleless nave and the 



The Artist at Work 227 

zebra stripes around the sanctuary arch. On either side of the 
arch the architect placed an altar of late-Gothic design, each 
surmounted by a niche with a Gothic canopy. Father Hawes 
reverted to neo-Gothic for St. Mary in Ara Coeli, Northamp 
ton (1936), adding a round tower with a conical roof at the 
southwest corner, with a tall narrow flfeche above the chancel. 

There can be little doubt that when it came to the in 
terior of St. Joseph s, Perenjon, Father Hawes must have 
been studying the illustrations in Father Benedict William 
son s How to Build a Church. Otherwise it is difficult to see 
where he could have got the idea for the neo-Egyptian stone 
baldachino, which is almost a literal copy of Father William 
son s design. It is clear enough that after the publication of 
How to Build a Church Father Williamson influenced his 
penitent s architecture as well as his spiritual life. The church 
at Perenjon contains a massive stone paschal candlestick with 
an attached lectern the effect of which is overpowering and 
barbaric. 

The amazing versatility of Father Hawes was apparent in 
the quaint little rough stone hermitage he built at Morawa 
in 1933, with a low-pitched roof of heavy tiles and small 
windows filled with elaborate Gothic tracery. Another so- 
called hermitage actually the red-brick chaplain s residence 
at St. John of God s Hospital, Geraldton harked back to 
those seaside houses designed at Bognor nearly forty years 
earlier. Father Hawes even employed the cut-out hearts in 
some of the wooden panels of the entrance hall lounge which 
were so popular with architects of the "Simple Life" school! 

From the time of his return to the Bahamas in 1939 until 
his death in 1956, John Hawes designed four churches for 
Cat Island and two for Long Island. In addition he drew up 
the plans for St. Augustine s Monastery and Boys College, 
for the Convent of Blessed Martin de Porres at Nassau, and 
designed the guesthouse and made plans for the enlargement 



228 The Hermit of Cat Island 

of the Church of the Cistercian Abbey in Rhode Island. His 
final plans were those for the Nassau cathedral. 

The Freetown church Holy Redeemer on which Fra 
Jerome did so much hard manual labor was begun in Feb 
ruary 1941 and completed about twelve years later. Accord 
ing to its architect, "it shows what can be done by an old 
missionary priest with a bit of sweat but very little money and 
only unskilled local labor." Fra Jerome then went on to 
describe the church in detail: 

"It has been erected to accommodate one hundred wor 
shipers with provisions for a future extension of the nave to 
seat another hundred. Sturdy buttresses support three trans 
verse arches of masonry that carry the longitudinal beams 
of the roof (so that the side walls are merely stone screens 
with plenty of window space). On the purlins is laid inch- 
thick diagonal boarding covered outside with pine shingles. 
The windows have no glass in them, but cement grilles inside 
and wooden shutters without. Of the fourteen windows, each 
grille has a different design. The altar steps are large gray 
weathered blocks of stone, quarried and squared some two 
hundred years ago for one of the old slavery mansions now 
in ruins. The liturgical arrangement of the church follows 
that of the ancient Roman basilicas. The altar is at the west 
end, the celebrant facing the people, while the morning sun 
streams in behind them from the wide-open double entrance 
doors. 

"The men all sit on the Gospel side and the women on the 
Epistle side. The altar is a severely plain concrete table, its 
ten-inch thick mensa resting on eight massive legs. There 
would be no sense in having the priest face the people if a 
big tabernacle and a crucifix and altar card came between 
them to hide all his actions so the tabernacle is placed on 
another and smaller altar just a few paces back. The crucifix 
hangs overhead. The center altar card is always placed lying 



The Artist at Work 229 

flat on the front center of the wide mensa, where the cele 
brant can stretch out his hand and hold it raised up if he 
wants to use it at the Gloria and Credo. So the chalice and 
manual actions are always in the people s view at Mass, and 
out of Mass; from anywhere in the nave, you can look over 
the high altar to the white domed tabernacle visible beyond 
in the little chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. 

"Another advantage of this plan is the additional security 
and reverence afforded to the locked safe of the tabernacle 
by the padlocked iron gates of the grille in the entrance arch 
to the chapel. The predella platforms of the two altars merge 
into one level surface so that there is nothing to trip the 
priest up when he carries the ciborium from one altar to 
the other. There is a somewhat similar arrangement at Down 
side Abbey Church in England, the Blessed Sacrament chapel 
there being immediately behind the high altar. 

"For benediction a light wooden throne of four little posts 
supporting a curved canopy is placed in the center of the 
high altar. The campanile is built right on one side of the 
sanctuary so it is handy for the sacristan or one of the altar 
servers to chime the two large bells hanging in the belfry 
above at the elevation and at benediction. 

"The large crucifix or rood hanging above the altar is 
fashioned after models of the Greek rite, the figures not being 
carved in the round but cut out of fiat boards one inch by 
twelve inches. The edges are rounded off, and details such as 
fingers and toes of the corpus are carved in low relief and 
then painted and gilded; not colored with any wishy-washy 
art tints/ but with the most vivid and brilliant colors pos 
sible." 

Every detail of this little church is worth careful study, as, 
for instance, the stone pulpit and the massive twisted stone 
paschal candlestick. The rough wooden benches help to give 
the right note of simplicity to the interior. Fra Jerome also 



230 The Hermit of Cat Island 

arranged the altar of the little church at Port Howe so that 
the celebrant faced the people. 

Fra Jerome spoke of the Freetown church as a "queer-look 
ing building. I dislike symmetrical, new-looking churches 
with a finish of mechanical perfection. Without any idea of 
theatrical picturesqueness or posing as antique/ it really 
has the appearance of an ancient building. It just grew like 
Topsy in Uncle Tom s Cabin. Some bits of the walls are 
smooth plastered and others are still rough stonework, 
weathered and stained with the rains. The campanile is now 
battered and scored where heavy timbers struck the belfry in 
the tremendous hurricane of 1941." 

In May 1945 he wrote that he was "fed up with some of 
the articles in Liturgical Arts, whose authors were putting 
forth as something quite new the True Principles of Archi 
tecture that Pugin taught us years ago." Their "bombast 
and aesthetic theorizing" finally drove him to a "protest 
against their beastly concrete match-box churches." It took 
the form of "a real baroque little mission church with all 
the applied ornament there was time to stick on to it: bulb 
ous swellings, consoles and curliwigs a touch of playful 
gaiety in the stone flfeche and gable end expresses Francis 
can joyfulness." Such was the origin of St. Francis Church, 
Old Bight. Never before had Fra Jerome got such fun out of 
designing a church. This is how he described it: 

"In cement I modeled in relief St. Francis preaching to 
the birds. The background of the panel on the facade is 
green art cement color wash, and the figure and birds are in 
silver (aluminum paint). A special Bahamian touch is 
given by the palm-leaf thatch on the nave roof. The thatch 
ing is beautifully executed by local men. The altar dossal is 
green and silver and gilded candlesticks of turned hardwood. 
The side curtains are a figured green stuff. I carved and 
painted a large crucifix, ready beforehand. Above is a rose 



The Artist at Work 



231 




. \T 



window witii brilliant deep-tinted glass, predominantly red 
and blue. I modeled a pair of big angels on either side above 
the crucifix the angels all silver with wings picked out in 
blue, red and green feathers/ Adjacent to this amusing little 
church Fra Jerome built a tiny domed hermitage "just an 



232 The Hermit of Cat Island 

anchorage when traveling around the out missions,** was the 
way he referred to it. 

About a year later he was at work on a very different sort 
of building the plans for a new choir for the Cistercian 
Abbey of Our Lady of the Valley, Rhode Island. The existing 
church was an unexciting neo-Perpendicular Gothic struc 
ture with a circular apse. What Fra Jerome proposed to do 
was to reverse the plan: make the monks* choir into the pub 
lic nave, use the nave as the lay Brothers* choir, and add a 
new, very much loftier monks choir. The design called for 
eleven side altars, five of them around an ambulatory behind 
the high altar, but unfortunately these plans never material 
ized. 

From time to time Fra Jerome received copies of architec 
tural magazines, with the result that a hurricane swept over 
Mount Alvernia! The reproductions of modern churches, 
and even more the high praise given to them, roused him to 
satire, and the drawings in which he expressed his opinion 
of the new liturgical art indicate that he might have made 
his fortune as a cartoonist. 

He captioned one of them the"altar of the new church at 
Castlemansionville, Oh-hi-oh, Pa. * with its "very practicable 
form of the tabernacle, with no door to open awkwardly over 
the corporal; the altar cross can be shifted across, so the priest 
can stand either side of the altar. The mosaics on the wall at 
the back of the altar were executed by students of the Nigh- 
town Art Institute." He draws attention to "the sense of 
dynamic movement in the archangel, and the didactic vigor 
of the figure of St. John Chrysostom, also the essential under 
lying naturalness of the lambkin." 

Even more amusing is a pencil drawing described as "my 
chef-d oeuvre pet design for the Abbey Church, Foxey Hill. 
Rejected! because the community has not enough funds to 
buy the necessary steel reinforcement and all the extra cement 



The Artist at Work 235 

for the concrete not to mention the thousands o feet of 
lumber (now about four pounds 100 feet) to be cut up for 
the form work. It won t be wasted/ I told them, because it 
will serve the abbey for years to come as firewood to keep the 
refrigerator working (if the ants aren t first). Then the idiots 
said the salt sea air will crack it all up in five years time, 
and it might fall in when the prior is preaching/ " 

He points out the monks choir, "concentrated entirely on 
one side only behind the altar." Then he calls attention to a 
staggered iron grille which "will effectually prevent any 
goats falling into the crypt. Altogether a dynamatic design, 
truly hydro-rhythmic in its approach, and refreshingly free 
from the enthropocentricism of retrogressive sentimental- 
ism." As a final note he lettered in: "How dreadful is this 
place O come, let us fall down." 

In a repentant moment Fra Jerome noted, "I am too fond 
of writing; too addicted to butting in on matters of art and 
liturgiology. It is a subtle form of pride keeping oneself in 
the public eye. I must stop it, for a hermit must be more 
detached." In spite of his good resolution he was unable to 
resist the temptation to "butt in" when he got thoroughly 
worked up over the design for the so-called "Chapel of Unity" 
in the new Anglican Cathedral at Coventry, England (1948). 
The result was one of his most brilliant and most provocative 
caricatures, entitled "For a new Interdenominational Cathe 
dral." The drawing is explained as follows: 

"The new cathedral is to have a centrally placed High 
Altar in the middle of the crossing of the transepts. Really 
congregational! The Tast President of the Sarum Society of 
Unantiquated Architects* begs to submit this suggestion for 
still more progressive comprehensiveness, i.e., a Circular 
Altar (Round Table) standing on a circular ferro-concrete 
predella; this revolves by electric power. The illustration 
shows a celebration of the Communion service celebrants 



234 



The Hermit of Cat Island 




"For a New Interdenominational Cathedral" 



right to left: the Bishop s Chaplain; the Lord Bishop (High 
Church); Canon Wellington Chasuble (Anglo-Catholic); the 
Right Reverend the Dean of Canterbury (by special invita 
tion) shown with raised fist at the Sanctus; the Orthodox 
Archimandrake Atheniopilopolis and the Most Reverend the 
Moderator of the United Free Churches stand blow the sanc 
tuary. The Pope of Rome was also invited. A verger (Holy 
Pokerman) operates the machinery. Thus every worshiper 
can see the celebrant of his or her own particular party come 
round facing them every two minutes." It will be noticed 



The Artist at Work 235 

that the hanging banner bears the words: "O & A, & I & <X 
Round she goes while the Merry Organ blows. Old Xmas 
Carol, No. 483." 

These drawings, and many others of a similar nature, ex 
press what Fra Jerome felt about much modern ecclesiastical 
architecture. He summed up his emotions as follows: "Let 
me tell you at once . . . that I am all that is bad in these days; 
I am a reactionary, an obscurantist, medieval, and a double- 
dyed traditionalist. Semicircular churches with sloping floors 
and radiating seats like a theater I abominate; and I ve no 
time for mural paintings that portray, for instance, the three 
chosen disciples on Mount Tabor, dressed in sweaters and 
trousers (baggy and unsailorlike at that!). Pope Pius XI, an 
enlightened man appreciative of modern ideas, said: This 
so-called modem art in religion must not disfigure the House 
of God. Sacred art has no foundation or reason for its exist 
ence unless it represents spiritual ideas. Works of art that are 
foreign to the Christian tradition must not be admitted into 
places of prayer. " s 

Now it was just because of his own knowledge of Christian 
tradition that Fra Jerome knew how to inject that elusive 
thing called "atmosphere" into his churches. There is not one 
church that does not pray of itself. Each has an atmosphere 
of prayer and love. His churches may be "bad architecture" 
from the contemporary point of view, and it is a waste of time 
to discuss this, but nobody could deny that they convey the 
impression of having been built with the primary purpose 
of moving the soul to worship, to bringing a man to his 
knees, to refreshing his soul in a weary land. They express 
the note of eternity. They were designed in accordance with 
the requirements of the liturgy and the particular needs of 
those who worship in them. A Hawes church is definitely 
the product of one mind a mind so steeped in Christian 

3 "Scratchings of a Cat Islander/ Liturgical Arts, November 1950, p. 18. 



236 The Hermit of Cat Island 

tradition that it could receive the inspiration to apply it to 
the needs it had to meet. For as we are told in St. Matthew s 
Gospel: "Every scholar, then, whose learning is of the King 
dom of Heaven must be like a rich man, who knows how to 
bring both new and old things out of his treasure house." 

There were many new and old things stored away in Fra 
Jerome s treasure house, and he knew how and where to 
make use of them for the greater glory of God and for the 
benefit of His Church. 

Fra Jerome completed the drawings of the interior and 
exterior of the new cathedral at Ballarat in 1943 and sent 
them to Australia from the Bahamas. Fra Jerome explained 
the problems he had to solve on this big job. 

"Bishop O Collins has decided not to complete the existing 
cathedral, but to begin an entirely new one. The present 
Victorian Gothic building is much too small; it seats only 
800. So he has asked me to plan a new one. He proposes to 
build the choir and transepts first, and sent me a plan of the 
site and measurements, so I planned out the biggest the site 
would hold. That makes a cathedral to seat 1,800 to 2,000 in 
emergency (with extra seats). You may wonder from the 
sketch why I have made the dome elliptical in plan instead 
of circular? Because there is only 84 feet from the end of the 
existing church to the fence, and I have to leave 14 feet for a 
procession path outside, so I had only 70 feet to work on. I 
wanted to get a very wide nave 40 feet clear. I had a letter 
from the Bishop a few weeks ago. He is very pleased with the 
design. On the other side there is a circular baptistery and a 
sacristy, 50 feet by 20. 

"In form and construction I have aimed at the utmost 
simplicity so that it will be an economical structure. All use 
less (or merely pretty) ornament and decoration are avoided, 
in favor of spaciousness and bigness. It will be a big barn of 
a church, but massive and strong, and I hope dignified. You 



The Artist at Work 237 

may think the apse of Ballarat Cathedral resembles the bridge 
and gun turrets of a battleship! We are all so war-minded 
these days that even the hermit engaged in the peaceful plan 
ning of a church can t help but give it a fortress look. It is 
to be faced outside with hammer-dressed bluestone that will 
give it a very rugged appearance." 

In this cathedral the influence of Father Benedict William 
son on Fra Jerome s work is most obvious. The factory chim- 
neylike twin towers at the west end of the cathedral are 
strongly reminiscent of those of a church in the Via Mazzini, 
Rome, shown in Father Williamson s How to Build a Church, 
as well as those shown in a frontispiece drawing by the author. 
The prototype of the dumpy columns dividing the wide 
nave from the narrow aisles can be found in other illustra 
tions in the book. The planning of the sanctuary, however, 
is highly original and well worth study. The high altar is a 
double one; the upper being the pontifical altar facing the 
people as in many of the Roman basilicas. The bishop s 
throne and the canons stalls are placed in the apse. Behind 
the apse are four circular chapels with three curious little 
shrines between them. In the designs for Ballarat Cathedral 
(designs which are still in abeyance) Fra Jerome quite broke 
away from the antiquarianism which characterized Geraldton 
Cathedral. Taken as a whole, the former is definitely a "mod 
ern" church. The extraordinary thing is that he should have 
worked out all these ideas in solitude with no assistants to 
help him. It is impossible to calculate the number of hours 
he must have spent on these plans. 

In an article in Liturgical Arts in November 1950, Fra 
Jerome wrote: "Any buildings in my long life which people 
have praised, I find, when I analyze it, that I did not subjec 
tively design. It was not a question of cleverness (and I have 
seen plenty of buildings much too clever). I did not design, 
but I discovered. I got a vision, a hunch of my imagination, 



238 The Hermit of Cat Island 

and I had to marshal all the practical requirements o purpose 
and use and to study obediently the exigencies o site, levels, 
surroundings and materials until I got some misty vision of 
fleeting beauty. Then sketch followed sketch of every varia 
tion, pruning and eliminating until I could catch the rhythm 
of a poem in stone. Humanly to take a similitude from the 
sublime master, Michelangelo, who, facing a huge block of 
shapeless marble saw, with prophet s eye, an angel in it and 
started with furious blows of mallet and chisel to liberate 
the angel, so I discovered my churches. Perfection in any 
sort of work comes not from ourselves but from the Divine 
beauty; so if a man excels in anything it is something Divine 
in him, not from himself, but given to him for the world s 
good. I like to live in a reality that is opposed to super-real 
ism." 4 

Ten years before his death, at seventy years of age, he 
started on his magnum opus St. Augustine s Benedictine 
monastery and school at Nassau. He wrote: "The fashion of 
building my hermitage, small and poor (like the Carceri at 
Assisi), would have pleased my holy father, St. Francis, but 
is hardly suitable to the Benedictine tradition of spacious 
and stately monasteries. The spirit of their holy founder, St. 
Benedict, would have everything in order and to make use 
of every available convenience. Could this old Franciscan 
maniac rise to that? Sure! The very reason I threw myself, 
as a young man, so wholeheartedly and exclusively into ec 
clesiastical architecture was the fact that in the London archi 
tects office where I was an articled pupil we did little else 
but banks and pubs. For relief I fled every evening to night 
schools of art and handicraft. In a spirit of revulsion and 
rank rebellion, as soon as my time was up, I deserted the 
temples of money and beer for the Gothic temples of true 
Jerusalem. Since I had perforce learned to plan out every 

p. 18. 



The Artist at Work 239 

corner and detail of a bank or pub/ I was quite familiar in 
my slavery with all the extremes of modern convenience in 
the building trade." * 

Fra Jerome s theory of following the exigencies of nature 
in building was the basis of the plan of St. Augustine s Mon 
astery and College. Realizing that his site was a long, narrow, 
rocky ridge of serpentine ground, he evolved a quite novel 
and interesting monastic plan, about six hundred feet in 
length, winding in and out, up and down, of monastery, 
church and college. 

This layout had the great advantage that both ground and 
upper floors had but a single line of rooms opening out onto 
a spacious corridor or cloister. Thus they were cool and airy. 
Every room, upper and lower, had an arched stone roof, and 
the exterior of the upper vaults was asphalted. The whole 
building was hurricane-proof and immune to termites and 
fire. The floors were cement or tiled. Wooden doorframes 
were eliminated by fixing the door hinges onto hardwood 
plugs in cement-rabbeted reveals, and the same was true of 
most of the glazed casements for the windows. 

The "old Franciscan maniac" got down to the most prac 
tical details. He provided a concrete tank up in the south 
west tower of the church, so as to ensure a good pressure of 
water in every room. The water was pumped up from wells 
in the monastery garden. Underground, stone-vaulted rain 
water tanks added to the supply. He took infinite pains over 
the plumbing, and was very pleased with the cement pipes 
built into the triangular buttresses that drained the water 
from the roofs. 

Since he was not tied to any contract, it was easy for Fra 
Jerome to ponder over and revise his plans and, as the work 
progressed, he made many alterations. By November 1949 
he was preoccupied with the planning of the church. He 

6 Ibid., p. 19. 



240 The Hermit of Cat Island 

felt that he had managed to provide something "quite novel 
in sacristy accommodation** for the twenty altars. There 
were to be four sacristies, each with a separate approach to 
five altars. The details of the architecture were nothing if 
not eclectic. The massive round columns of the nave were 
meant to be reminiscent of those at Tewkesbury Abbey, Eng 
land, and St. Nazaire, Carcassonne, France. The high altar in 
the center of the church, well raised up above the crypt (the 
lay Brother s choir), was to be planned like the altars of most 
of the Roman basilicas, with the celebrant facing the people, 
and with large baroque candlesticks. Above it would be a 
suspended crucifix. One of the drawings showed an early 
Christian ciborium over the Blessed Sacrament altar in the 
western transept. 

About a year later Fra Jerome wrote, "The choir being 
loftier, to increase a soaring effect, I have designed pointed 
arches over the internal buttresses for the recesses that carry 
the upper range of stalls. I purr over these pointed arches 
out of defiance of super-modernists who regard anything 
Gothic as heresy!** In the same defiant mood he inserted 
three tall, narrow lancets in the east wall of the choir, with 
a rose window above them. When he began to work on the 
spacious crypt, he designed an altar almost as Egyptian in 
inspiration as the one at Perenjon, Western Australia. The 
walls and piers of the crypt were three feet thick in places 
to take the thrust of the arched stone vaults above. 

Fra Jerome s efforts to achieve beauty by comprehension 
puzzled many visitors. Some remarked: "It s Moorish, isn t 
it? Or Saracenic, or Gothic, or Byzantine, or isn t it rather 
Egyptian?" 

He would reply: "Well, the Egyptians were great people 
they used stone and lime, and so do we, and that s all there 
is in it, but of course we are the heirs of all the ages." e 
id., p. 20. 



The Artist at Work 241 

Fra Jerome confessed that he could not make "scientific 
geometrical perspective drawings,* and that he had forgot 
ten all that he had ever learned about them as a student. 
"I just draw the thing as I see it in my head," he wrote, "and 
then hold it back to front (looking-glass way) and upside 
down to detect the biggest errors in drawing. The revised 
design of the church conveys a truthful impression of the 
idea of the building, with the dim, shadowy, mysterious effect 
of the low, wide-spreading nave, with its massive Egyptian- 
like columns, and the sunlit upstanding choir beyond with 
its pointed arches. Yes! Joie de mure better Venite exsul- 
temus Domino." 

From the time the hermit started work on the plans of 
the Nassau monastery and its church he was always compar 
ing St. Augustine s in his mind with other modern monas^ 
teries both in Europe and America. In November 1945 he 
pointed out that, comparatively, the church would be quite 
small: only 30 feet high inside with a central span of but 15 
feet and an over-all length of about 130 feet. It was only nat 
ural that he should think of his monastery church at Nassau 
in relation to the proposed abbey church at Prinknash in 
England, and it amused him to discover, after rough calcula 
tions based on the human figures in the photographs sent 
him, that the total height of the Prinknash Abbey church, 
inclusive of its crypt and subcrypt, would be not far short of 
the 175 feet of Beauvais Cathedral, the loftiest in Europe. 
How modest was his church when compared with the monster 
which was to be erected on the slopes of the Cotswold hills. 
The latter, he worked out, would be even longer than Win 
chester Cathedral, which has the greatest total length (560 
feet) of any other medieval cathedral in Europe. 

The long-drawn-out nave roused the hermit-architect to 
fury. "If there must be a nave," he wrote, "then three bays 
would be quite enough instead of seven. The view of the new 



242 The Hermit of Cat Island 

Prinknash Abbey from the west is just a dreadful and appal 
ling conglomeration of discordant features, a jumble culmi 
nating in a front of pure bathos! I have always said that the 
nave was far too long, and now with the extension of the 
narthex it makes the building look like a snake crawling 
down the hill, and the main entrance, the serpent s mouth 
or, at best, the entrance to an air-raid shelterl I notice that, 
like the Basilica of San Francesco, Assisi, it is to have three 
churches superimposed; yet in spite of all modem appliances 
and facilities I doubt if the good monks will get the job 
through so expeditiously as Brother Elias didl 

"Some bishops, abbots and architects are certainly men 
of far-seeing vision. But it is a gamble with the future. For 
myself, while designing a church [it should be] not so small 
and mean that it can be built right off the bat, but that the 
first novices of the new abbey may have a sure hope of seeing 
it completed in their lifetime. So at Nassau a start will be 
made right off by worshiping in a portion of the permanent 
church, i.e., the crypt under the future monastic choir." 

Fra Jerome s opinions were not necessarily right or wrong, 
but they indicated how strongly he felt about architecture, 
and how much it meant to him. The English churches which 
he had admired in his youth never lost their hold on his 
imagination, and in 1942 he could still write, "Anglican 
clergy of the early Ritualistic movement and their archi 
tects often got the right idea. Look at St. Bartholomew s, 
Brighton: a great brick barn, 120 feet high, but what a fane 
of awe and dignity! James Brooks s churches, too St. 
Columba s and St. Chad s, Haggerston, and the Ascension, 
Lavender Hill Glapham. When I was an articled pupil in the 
early nineties, how I used to love my Saturday afternoons 
of exploration and discovery of fresh architectural triumphs, 
such as St. Agnes , Kennington (Gilbert Scott the Second), 



The Artist at Work 243 

Holy Trinity, Sloane Street (J. D. Sedding) what a genius! 
A, W. Pugin and J. D, Sedding were the morning and eve 
ning stars of the Gothic Revival.* 

On the other hand, illustrations of the designs for the 
new Catholic cathedral at Liverpool aroused in him a strong 
and scornful reaction. "Prinknash Abbey reminds me of 
Liverpool Cathedral," he wrote. "I said to the Bishop of 
Geraldton once, Let s build a new and even bigger cathe 
dral; Downey s is only second in size to St. Peter s, Rome. 
We will advertise ours by making it bigger than St. Peter s. 
I think we could get enough money in a few years to build 
the toilets and an oval macadamized track for motorcars to 
view and encircle the seven-acre site! We could charge the 
cars one shilling admittance and put the proceeds to pay for 
the weekend cleanup of our existing cathedral/ " 

When Fra Jerome became serious about designs for the 
Nassau cathedral, however, his facetiousness vanished and 
a concept both romantic and harmonious took its place. He 
spoke of his dissatisfaction with his original plans for this 
building and in 1947 indicated that "now I have a far better 
inspiration. The harbor and ships were in my mind, and the 
Mauretania lying at anchor just outside. The passengers lean 
ing over the toprail gazing at lovely Nassau ought to be 
made to say, And what s that tall tower right opposite? 
Oh! the Roman Catholic cathedral. . . . And what s that great 
round tower? Is that the pirate Blackbird s tower? . . . Oh! 
it s a water tower. And what are those two tall blue spires 
far away behind out there to the east? ... St. Augustine s 
Abbey more Roman Catholic, eh! They get there, don t 
they? " 

That dream tower facing the main entrance of the harbor 
at Nassau must stand up like an Egyptian pharos, so he felt 
He wanted this cathedral which would probably be his last 



244 The Hermit of Cat Island 

building to be "of the soil of early Catholic Spanish Amer 
ica/ He put his whole heart, soul, mind and even his body 
into designing this proposed cathedral. 

The Convent of Blessed Martin de Porres, begun about 
the same time as St. Augustine s Monastery, was similar in 
construction, but the lower and upper floors were planned 
with rows of rooms off both sides of the central corridors. 
The spacious chapel was designed with a central stone vault 
of parabolic curve. In the new church at Bimini the vaulted 
roof was built of conch shells, found in abundance on this 
island. Fra Jerome s design for the church at San Salvador, 
conceived as a memorial to Columbus, was frankly a period 
piece, built in the sixteenth-century Spanish colonial style. 

Sts. Peter and Paul, Clarence Town, Long Island, is the 
largest of the churches which Fra Jerome designed for the out 
islands in the Bahamas. It stands on a hilltop overlooking 
the lovely harbor and has three towers. He records how Fra 
Cornelius, "who worked on it himself all the time, devised 
a clever and economical method of freeing the timber center 
ing under the main stone vault and moving it on rollers from 
one section to the next. These stone vaults are splendid for 
sound-singing. The twin towers on the main entrance facade 
are circular, like marine lighthouses, and rise to fifty-five feet, 
with a central turret opening into a little gallery guarded 
with a safely high parapet, whence a superb view is obtain 
able." 

It was a great joy to Fra Jerome that most of the few 
decorative features of St. Augustine s Monastery were "mon 
astic handmade handicraft." He wrote with pride of the six 
medallions, carved by Father Alban, O.S.B., over the upper 
air vents of the chapter room. Three of the medallions repre 
sented monks engaged in manual labor: agriculture, building 
and scriptorium. The fish portrayed Friday fare from Baha 
mian blue waters. These medallions particularly pleased the 



The Artist at Work 245 

hermit for all his life he loved carving and especially the 
carving and painting of crucifixes. The first of his crucifixes 
seems to have been the large rood with figures of Our Lady 
and SL John which he painted in tempera colors above the 
round chancel arch of the ancient village church on Caldey 
Island in 1906. He designed other roods for Anglican 
churches on Long Island in the Bahamas. Several of his Aus 
tralian churches were provided with suspended crucifixes, 
which he himself carved, painted and gilded. When he re 
turned to the Bahamas in 1939 he executed many more cruci 
fixes, some of them with negroid features and coloring. On 
the hanging rood at Clarence Town, Gat Island, the corpus 
of the Christ was painted with white enamel, whereas in the 
large rood in the chapel of the Convent of Blessed Martin 
de Porres at Nassau all the body parts were left unpainted, 
showing the natural cedarwood waxed, contrasting with the 
silver drapery and the robes of Our Lady and St John. The 
cross and haloes were gold, picked out with vermilion bor 
ders. The features were outlined in plain, broad lines of 
black enamel. 

Fra Jerome wrote, "The figures are certainly not the type 
of Nordic white Europeans. The good dark-skinned Sisters 
when they look at Our Lady can naturally feel she s truly 
our Mother/ and St. John, he s no conchy Joe! The pale 
pink flesh of the conch shell is the colored native slang term 
of attribute for the white Bahamian." The altar built by the 
boys of the Nassau prison had another large crucifix painted 
by Fra Jerome which stressed that Our Lord himself was 
"no conchy Joe." 

How much he enjoyed not only designing, but making 
and decorating the furnishings of his churches, was clearly 
indicated in a letter written while he was at work on some 
of the altars at St. Augustine s Monastery. "Every day I get 
into my overalls after breakfast. I ve already built two altars 



246 The Hermit of Cat Island 

myself, one of St. Benedict with Sts. Maurus and Placid. 
After the modeling and carving are complete I put on a coat 
of Dusseal and can use oil paints silver and gold right 
away. St. Benedict has a black cowl, gold halo, dark olive face 
and patriarchal gray beard. At his feet are the raven (eyes 
turned up at him) and a broken cup with a snake coming 
out, colored green, silver and gold. . . . Some of my work may 
be a bit hurried and rough, but all my saints have, I think 
I may say, character and individuality, and cause much in 
terest from the uncultured and ignorant. The little picka 
ninnies love to come in and point a finger at every detail. 
They love the realistic snake, the raven, fishes and birds, and 
my triumphal zoological piece, the gray wolf of Gubbio with 
snarling teeth and red tongue on St. Francis altar. What 
specially tickled the Apostolic Delegate, and he pointed his 
finger at it laughing, was a rat praying for a bit of bread be 
low the basket of Blessed Martin de Porres as he distributes 
pannioti to the little Negro waifs a side wing to Our Lady 
of Guadelupe s altar/ 

That Fra Jerome derived great fun from painting the big 
mural at Freetown can be seen from the long and detailed 
description he wrote of it. It was deliberately "primitive and 
crude, but outright and vivid, planned as a didactic catechism 
instruction." The painter himself did not care whether 
critics would regard it as "high" or "low" art. His reward 
would be that his own people, adults and children, would 
linger, discussing every detail: the fish, the net, the cork floats 
on it, the woolly sheep the rigging ("in that I was very 
particular as to every stay, rope and pulley") of the big 
schooner at anchor on the calm waters of the lake. 

One pope was depicted in a flowing paenula and omo- 
phorion, another in a fiddleback chasuble. An altar boy re 
marked, "Lookl Farder s even drawn de lace jus like life!" 
St Peter, garbed in blue jeans, was surrounded by carefully 



The Artist at Work 247 

drawn species of all the fish most common in the Bahamas. 
But it was a "high-pooped (fore and aft) schooner, flying the 
papal flag," which seems to have given the painter the greatest 
satisfaction. "It took me one whole day from breakfast after 
Mass to sunset (with a ten minutes rest for a biscuit and 
cheese lunch) just to paint the schooner s rigging/ he wrote, 
"Our island sailormen are very pleased with the schooner 
and haven t been able to find any fault in her details not 
even the rigging!" 

As has been noted already, it is easy to trace the influence 
of some of the late nineteenth-century English architects in 
Fra Jerome s earlier work, but it must be stressed that he 
never belonged to any particular school or clique. His work 
is sui generis. A romantic by temperament, in many ways he 
was more in touch with the past than the present* He be 
longed to the end of an epoch rather than to the start of a new 
one, but it would be utterly wrong to describe him as a die 
hard, although he enjoyed using the expression himself. 
Rather is there an ageless quality about almost all his archi 
tecture, bound up so closely as it was with nature. Like a true 
Franciscan he remained a child at heart, and continued to 
get as much amusement out of designing churches and mon 
asteries as he did in playing with his fifth birthday present 
box of toy bricks. 

In his seventy-fifth year he wrote, "And now I am definitely 
making my final retirement from the practice of architecture 
and the handling of a stone ax and trowel. This is my swan 
song. I am too tired to make any more wildcat pen scratch- 
ings." 7 



13. 



Toward Evening 



FRA Jerome s health, undermined by overwork and peculiar 
diet, began to decline steadily, and from the autumn of 1948 
he wrote again and again of his weakness and lack of energy, 
complaining that he seemed to get nothing done. Yet he 
could say, "Where I would break down if I attempted any 
further enterprise on my own volition, when it is clear God 
is calling me to do something, He gives me sufficient strength 
for it, often when it looks impossible/ 

This was put to the test when in October the hermit de 
cided that the Port Howe people could be neglected no 
longer, and that he must set out to take care of them. He had 
asked the Bishop to send someone to these people, but no 
priest could be spared from Nassau. There was nothing for 
it but to make the long journey himself. On a moonlit Fri 
day night Fra Jerome rose a half hour before midnight, made 
his preparations, and started down the hill for the shore and 
the road to Port Howe. After a two-hour walk he reached Old 
Bight Creek where he girded his habit about his neck and 
waded into the sea to revive himself. Then, barefoot, he 
covered the remainder of the seven miles to St. Francis* 
Church where he said Mass in solitude at 2:30 A.M. 

After a rest on a palm mat he awoke at dawn to rain and 

248 



Toward Evening 249 

a breakfast of dry bread and raisins. He was so thirsty that he 
picked up a bottle lying on the floor of the sacristy and 
drained a long draught from it- Instantly he spat it out it 
was surface spray for mosquitoes and bugs, Poor Fra Jerome, 
He had forgotten that he had brought the bottle along on 
his last journey and he wrote ruefully: "Moral: always stick 
a label on your bottles!" 

Ignoring the bad taste in his mouth, the hermit set off in 
the direction of Port Howe and by midday he was among his 
people there. He said Mass for them on Sunday, then dis 
covered that because of hurricane reports the mail boat would 
not be sailing. For two days he waited in Port Howe until, 
bored and impatient, he decided to walk back to the hermit 
age. It was not surprising that this tramp of seventeen miles 
each way exhausted the seventy-two-year-old pedestrian. He 
was too tired to eat or sleep, and was laid up during the fol 
lowing week with a sore throat and a bad cold. He wrote 
later, "Well, it shows one if God wills you to do an impos 
sible thing, He will give you all the necessary physical 
strength and grace for it." 

Three days after this long journey on foot a man arrived 
at the hermitage with a message from Devil s Point, twenty- 
six miles away by road, that seventy-eight persons all Bap 
tists wanted to be received into the Catholic Church. "So 
I wrote to the Bishop," Fra Jerome records, "asking him to 
send a priest to visit them; explaining that he could land from 
the mail boat at Port Howe and walk the remaining ten 
miles, and then take a motor bicycle with him to return here 
from Port Howe. I pointed out that if we do nothing for 
these people the Jumpers or Adventists will hop in. If the 
Bishop cannot do anything to help, then I ll have to struggle 
to do the job myself. If this Devil s Point corporate reunion 
comes off, it will bring the Catholic population of Cat Island 
up to more than 300, i.e., nine years growth out of a popula- 



250 The Hermit of Cat Island 

tion of about 4,000. What a lot a zealous and active young 
priest might do with a motor bike or jeep to cover the main 
road through the island; it is so -very little that I have been 
able to do." 

It was a bitter disappointment to Fra Jerome to receive a 
reply from Bishop Bernard informing him that he just 
could not spare a priest at that moment; and that no more 
monks could be sent to the Bahamas from St. John s Abbey, 
Collegeville, until 1950. "Well, I am not going to worry or 
shed any unnecessary tears," was Fra Jerome s comment. 
"The Lord and the Abbot must provide. I shall have to do 
the walking!" But in the end the aged hermit did not have 
to walk to Devil s Point, for in November Bishop Bernard 
managed to send Father Herman to care for the more than 
a hundred catechumens. 

Relieved of these onerous journeys, Fra Jerome by April 
1949 was feeling "much better," although he claimed it was 
from a strict observance of Lent rather than the lessening of 
duties. He admitted, however, that he still had "a more or 
less perpetual headache." And he was also "stony broke" 
because there had been so many calls on his charity, owing 
to a long drought which resulted in a food shortage on the 
island. He had banished the straw mattress in his narrow 
bunk, and found that a palm mat was sufficient to allow him 
to sleep "very well and comfortably. I often think how luxu 
rious is my life compared with the poor prisoners and slaves 
behind the Iron Curtain." 

How kind and devoted were the people of Cat Island to 
their hermit! Despite their poverty they brought Turn a steady 
stream of corn grits, potatoes, breadfruit and bananas; some 
times even a little money dribbled in from partial repay 
ment of outstanding loans. This was enough to provide Fra 
Jerome with coffee beans, sugar and cooking fat. He had 
given up butter, cheese and tinned milk long ago. His spirits 



Toward Evening 251 

were high, too, since all was going well after the "corporate 
reunion" at Devil s Point. The ex-Baptists had already 
learned to sing the Missa de Angelis. 

It was inevitable at his advanced age that Fra Jerome 
should begin to give serious consideration to the precise na 
ture of eternity. The resurrection of the dead occupied his 
thoughts and he laid bare his ideas in several letters, For ex 
ample, "Since we shall not be metamorphized into angels at 
the Resurrection but remain Homo, where would be the 
congruity of our souls being joined again to our bodies if 
those bodies do not bring in pleasure, the substance of bodily 
things? They are indeed no longer sensual* but changed and 
glorified bodies, but still bodies recognizable by varying 
traits. As St. Augustine says, with all deficiencies corrected. 
Thus the over-fiat St. Thomas Aquinas will be not too fat; 
the lean no longer too thin; the lame equalized; and the babe 
grown to man s stature. 

"See our Blessed Lord Himself the glorious constella 
tion of five stars, those scars of five wounds in His hands, 
feet, and side, in His visible, tangible body. Mankind will 
there no longer marry nor be given in marriage in the union 
of souls. This union of souls will be perfected as one of the 
joys of Heaven union of (souls of) husbands, wives, parents 
and children. All Heaven is one great marriage: that of all 
the redeemed the mystical body, the spouse of the Lamb. 
In the Beatific Vision we shall gaze on God. God is Beauty 
the All Beautiful. Art is Beauty, and Beauty is God. . . . 
So we shall find and enjoy in the Beatific Vision the essence 
of all the beauty of mountain scenery, of architecture, of 
sculpture and painting, and of music. Such will correspofid 
to the yearnings of our glorified human nature, else why a 
resurrection body? Since human nature loves what God has 
mad* 1 so lovely and dear in animal creation (a creation also 
reflecting His limitless beauty with infinite variety) there 



252 The Hermit of Cat Island 

will be animals, e.g., horses and dogs, to fulfill the scope of 
our human nature in our risen bodies. Rejoicing in these 
things, we rejoice in God and in His beauty. There are many 
mansions, and some saints of a differing and more surpassing 
glory, who attained to God by pure abstract contemplation 
here below, will need nothing else in the Beatific Vision but 
the same pure contemplation* One star differeth from an 
other in glory. 

"St. Paul, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa, and other high 
mystics will be looking at and satisfied with the pure essence 
of the Blessed Trinity in the Beatific Vision. You and I, and 
many other art and animal lovers, will rest (D.V.) in the 
same Beatific Vision, in the love of beauty, of God our Crea 
tor, but will see the same reflected in such humbler things 
as we understand and love of what God created in our human 
nature; for we are still Homo in Heaven else why a resur 
rected body? 

"My (resurrection) eyes will not be good enough to be able 
to ascend to live in a mansion which is pure essence of light 
and glory (perfect contemplation); but, rather, to bask in 
God s love and beauty in an architectural mansion of form, 
shape and measurement. And after all, the apocalyptic seer 
St. John and the Angel went up and down the heavenly city 
with a measuring rod. An orchestra played on harps, and 
others who preferred riding to music came forth (attending 
their king) riding on white horses. Without are dogs! But 
those are the bad dogs. Holy Scripture has it worth while to 
recount how Tobias s dog wagged his tail and ran in front 
of the Angel, and ran forward joyously announcing their re 
turn home. And then there were the good dogs that charitably 
licked the sores of Lazarus (applying anti-toxin). Into some 
species of animals God puts such beauty of individual char 
acter. I think of my little fox terrier Dominie such love, 



Toward Evening 253 

trust and faithfulness one cannot but mourn the separation 
from and loss of such a one. 

"All which I took from thee, I did but take, 

Not for thy harms, 
But just that thou might st seek it in 

My arms.** 

Then, without a break, Fra Jerome switched off from 
speculating on the after life and hurled himself into a dis 
cussion of a proposed baldachino or a reredos for St, Paul s 
Cathedral, London. Curiously enough, his letters seldom 
dealt with theology. This example suggests that he was be 
coming more conscious that his time on earth was nearing 
an end. 

A month or two later, however, he could write that he was 
feeling wonderfully rejuvenated. Stimulated by the carving 
and painting of the altars in the crypt of St. Augustine s 
Monastery, every morning he donned his overalls, and worked 
hard most of the day. "It s just fascinating," he wrote. "God 
is very gracious to me that at my age I have enough strength 
left to do it. The more I work, the less I eat, but drink a lot 
of iced goat s milk, and plenty of Eno s Fruit Salt. Tell yer, 
I punish plenty! as poor sick Bahamians exclaim, and I 
thank God for the thorn in my flesh (hernia) that I may 
have some part with Christ in our suffering brethren behind 
the Iron Curtain who are ever in my thoughts and prayers. 
After supper I fall asleep sitting in my cell saying my Office, 
and don t get finished and in bed until usually eleven o clock, 
and then up at 3 or 4 A.M. Alone in the dark chapel until the 
holy old contemplative lay Brother [Anselm] . . . joins me 
soon after four until the bell rings for the Angelus at five. 
Prime and Terce are at five-twenty, then Conventual Mass, 
then private Masses. I get the special grace of suffering mpst 



254 The Hermit of Cat Island 

of all during my Mass. Often I can t genuflect and can hardly 
stand. Then I lie down for a quarter of an hour before break 
fast at seven, and when I ve had my coffee I m a different 
man. When I ve changed and work begins at eight on the 
church, I feel just like a young man of thirty !" 

Certainly Fra Jerome s mind was as young and lively as 
it had ever been. His letters were filled with trenchant opin 
ions on art, architecture, monasticism, liturgy, ceremonial 
and even politics and economics. His interests ranged the 
globe from Europe to Asia, Africa, Australia and back to 
America and the Bahamas. It was hard to believe that now, 
in 1949, he was seventy-four years old. Although he was de 
prived of his solitude by his prolonged stay at Nassau he was 
contented and happy, "luxuriating in the monastery," as he 
put it. 

He described the "grand Requiem (five absolutions) and 
funeral" of the Vicar Apostolic of the Bahamas. "Such a 
crowd that Mass had to be in the open air; thousands of 
people." He was delighted by the monastic community, so 
regular and fervent; by the food, "very wholesome and 
simple, with plenty of vegetables, goat s milk and honey, all 
from the monastery land." In the evening he liked to walk up 
and down the long upper cloister, enjoying the view of sea 
and green land spread out before him on one hand, or, on 
the other side of the cloister, a glimpse of a "silent, indus 
trious monk sitting at his desk reading or writing." 

"What happy creatures they are!" he wrote. "At recreation 
after supper they seem to me just like little children, so merry 
and laughing, and still plenty of elevating and cultured dis 
cussion; and such a nice family spirit. ... A visiting Bene 
dictine from New York said this is the most monastic monas 
tery he had ever seen nothing like it in the U.S.A. Inter 
esting, austere and delightful/ so said another much-traveled 
abbot. 



Toward Evening 255 

"It is a pleasure to me as the architect to see how really 
delighted they are with the building. One monk remarked 
the other day, I never thought it would be anything like 
this!* The Prior, Father Frederic Frey, is really an outstand 
ing man, and to him is due the whole initiation and con 
ception of the monastery, both spiritual and material; add 
ing, of course, the wholehearted approval and financial back 
ing given by Abbot Alcuin of St John s Abbey, Minnesota. 

"These monks are the most zealous and devoted apostles. 
Sometimes they nearly work themselves to death, what with 
sports, brass bands, and tearing about all the time in cars 
and on motor bicycles! They make lots of converts, and are 
most exemplary and assiduous in visiting the hospitals, prison 
camps and leper settlement The colored people love them. 
Lift up your eyes: the harvest is ripe* Pray ye the Lord 
of the harvest to send forth more laborers* Teed my lambs, 
feed my sheep. The religious orders must adapt themselves 
to the needs of the age we live in, and also be ready few per 
secution and confiscation of all their possessions. , . . But how 
I wander on!" 

It was not often that Fra Jerome s letters contained refer 
ences to his friends, apart from the Bahama Benedictines 
or his own island people, but on December 19, 1949, he wrote 
a long epistolary appreciation of Father Benedict William 
son whose death had occurred in Rome a year earlier. Father 
Williamson during World War I, in which he had been 
gassed and wounded, had been sought out as a confessor and 
had made many converts. Three of his earlier converts had 
become monastic priors, one of them the Carthusian prior of 
Parkminster. Fra Jerome always referred to Father William 
son as his spiritual director, but actually they met only ttoee 
times between 1913 and 1939. Their relationship consisted 
in a constant exchange of letters and an admiration of each 
other s character and architectural work. 



256 The Hermit of Cat Island 

Summing up Father Williamson s career, Fra Jerome said, 
"Here was a man who had given himself absolutely to God. 
He lived in another world and to him were shown things 
hidden from lesser souls. A man utterly impervious to the 
world and unconscious of ridicule. His works live after him." 

An avalanche of unwelcome publicity now began to de 
scend upon Fra Jerome. During the summer of 1949 Col 
lier s magazine had sent Bill Davidson, one of its writers, 
to the Bahamas to prepare an illustrated article on the "Her 
mit of Cat Island." Fra Jerome, innocent of the interviewing 
techniques of professional journalists, proved to be spectac 
ularly good "copy," and made no objections to being photo 
graphed in color in several picturesque poses. The old hermit 
was horrified when a copy of the magazine reached him, and 
bitterly regretted his folly in talking so freely to Davidson. 

Fra Jerome explained that "all his information he just 
wormed out of me in affable conversation he just mesmer 
ized mel He got me talking on this or that experience of my 
past life; and an old man loves to go over the memories of 
his past just for the fun of remembering it, and will talk it 
all out (led on by judicious queries) quite oblivious of the 
fact that everything you say will be used in evidence against 
you/ 

"Then he had heard from someone of Soliloquies of a 
Solitary and he referred to that as Father Jerome s published 
Diary/ In the hermitage he scanned through a Ms. scrapbook 
in my little shelf and found a memorandum of dates and 
places in my life. Then he interviewed the Cat Island Bight 
commissioner for two hours one evening, and culled legends 
of an African and Obeah nature from the talk of his native 
escort. Highly detailed/ you say; but accurate biography? 
There is certainly nothing omitted that vivid journalistic im 
agination and artistic license could supply to make good read 
ing for Collier s. But Bill is a charming fellow, and I wrote 



Toward Evening 257 

to him: / forgfae you! 9 with a little sketch of a cat and kit 
tens playing under a palm tree on an islet with hermitage 
atop, ..." 

After the publication of this article in July 1950, the her 
mit was never left in peace. The Catholic Digest reprinted 
the Collier s story, publishers besieged him for an autobiog 
raphy or biography, authors offered their services and pro 
posed financial terms, "fan mail" poured in. Distracted and 
annoyed, Fra Jerome wrote, "Oh, why, oh, why did I fool 
ishly babble out so freely to Bill Davidson? Yet natural kind 
liness and courtesy could not brutally turn down a man who 
had traveled all that distance, at such expense, to get to 
Nassau and Cat Island from New York. The Fathers tell me 
some people say that Fra Jerome must have got a big check 
from Collier s for that article! Yes sleepless nights and a 
string of annoying fan letters, many of them from scheming 
phonies begging, gathering from Collier s that Fra Jerome 
must be a philanthropic millionaire and a perfect mug." 

All this unwanted publicity worried him terribly. When 
he wrote Soliloquies of a Solitary he did so first under the 
safeguard and protection of anonymity, not minding very 
much what he said in print. These articles, when they ap 
peared in Pax, were addressed primarily to those few souls 
who are "fed up" with so-called modernity and progress and 
seek after real solitude. But after their republication in the 
Capuchin Annual, the identity of the author was revealed, 
and he realized too late that the general public did not want 
to read about the eremitical life; it wanted only an imagina 
tive fairy tale "smeared in high lights about some wonderful 
xvorldwide curiosity, " as the miserable author remarked to 
a friend. After 1950 it is not untrue to say that Fra Jerome 
almost regretted that he had ever built that romantic hermit 
age on the highest hill in the Bahamas, much as he loved it. 
Instead of enabling him to lead a solitary and hidden life, it 



258 The Hermit of Cat Island 

had brought him right into the full glare of the limelight. 
He found himself a "star," and regarded as a public enter- 
tainerl 

"I ve lived too long!" Fra Jerome realized that he did not 
belong to the "brave new world" which had arisen after 
World War II. About the only thing left that he still enjoyed 
was architecture, his first love. He seems, however, to have 
found time for a considerable amount of reading, in spite 
of failing eyesight. His comments on new books were pointed 
and critical. 

For instance, Pre Regamey s treatise, Poverty, was dis 
missed as "an insult to Franciscans and our holy founder. . . . 
I become more and more impatient with this modernistic 
world of cranks! Nowadays some people will compass heaven 
and earth to have Mass in a bedroom on a scullery table when 
there is a proper church only three minutes walk down the 
street. The next thing we shall hear of is a vernacular dia 
logue Mass in Notre Dame, Paris, celebrated by a guy sit 
ting at a little three-legged table in front of the high altar 
(that being too bourgeois* to use!) dressed in a warm bell- 
shaped paenula only over his blue jeans; and the workmen 
congregation (mostly?) how many of them are but fervent 
student Catholic Actionists? But I do admire the work of 
those Paris Benedictines out in a communist suburb. I ve 
forgotten their name, but they wear their habit and say their 
Office in church and have converted most of the Communists 
in the parish. 

"Thank God! I see Liturgical Arts no longer. It s not worth 
the present rate of dollar exchange for the purpose of receiv 
ing sickening illustrations of steel and reinforced workshops 
and factories masquerading as churches. As to those headless 
trunks and ruptured intestines daubed on the wall or hacked 
out of stone Painting? Sculpture? Art? Tripe and onions!" 



Toward Evening 259 

This letter was accompanied by some particularly malicious 
caricatures of contemporary church architecture, 




Solitude, now that it had become so hard to capture, was 
more dear to the hermit than ever. On his periodic visits to 
the Nassau Benedictines he could admit that he enjoyed the 
"roomy cell, comfortable bed, water and electric light," but 
such externals only helped to convince him of his Franciscan 
vocation. He wrote, "The Opus Dei is all right for Benedic 
tines and very edifying to outsiders, but on feast days and 
many solemn Offices and Masses for the dead, when it is sten- 
toriously chanted with rhythmic roar, it gets on my nerves. 
I don t mind a little of it, but not too much. And the more 
perfect it is, according to the up-to-date, most approved 
Solesmes method of plain chant, the more it irks me, with 
its up and down twenty to thirty notes on one syllable, as in 
the introits, graduals, tracts, offertories and alleluias a-a-a- 
a- Aa Aa Aa, aaa, ad infinitum! More acrobatics than in a 
soprano s warbling of any of the florid operatic Masses! Give 
me the jolly old hearty (and I suppose incorrect) Mechlin 
or Rarisbon chant!" 

It was a great joy to Fra Jerome when Dom Paul Leonard 
Hagarty, O.S.B., was appointed to succeed Bishop Bernatd 
as Vicar Apostolic of the Bahamas on June 25, 1950. The 
new Bishop, whom Fra Jerome described as "a most lovable 



260 The Hermit of Cat Island 

man and the most popular priest among the natives/ had 
been working in the Bahamas since 1937. The aged hermit 
had been devoted to him ever since Dom Leonard had cut 
open and cleaned out his septic foot when giving his first 
mission on Cat Island in 1940. Dom Leonard had also been 
one of the first visitors who stayed at the hermitage. So Fra 
Jerome felt he must assist at the consecration ceremonies, 
much as he detested such functions. 

He described how he sat in his gray habit in a retired cor 
ner among the lay Brothers, and how every time the Apostolic 
Delegate turned to say "Dominus vobiscum" an electric flash 
bulb caught him blinking! There were two other arch 
bishops, six bishops, five abbots, four masters of ceremonies 
and monsignori like the sands of the sea"; but Monsignor 
John Cyril Hawes was thankful that moths had long since 
eaten his purple robes, and thus he was able to hide himself. 
"I looked back and sighed for the good old days," he wrote, 
"when it was strictly forbidden even to photograph an empty 
church interior if the Blessed Sacrament was in the taber 
nacle. But Yankees love publicity and advertising, including 
the clergy, and an American archbishop will stop in the mid 
dle of a procession, grin and pose for any photographer 
there!" 

More and more did the old hermit find it difficult to under 
stand the world in which he was forced to linger it was so 
different from that of the days of his youth. There were 
moments now when even the observances of the good and 
kind Benedictine monks at Nassau puzzled him. Yet what 
fine and utterly devoted mission priests they were, he stressed 
again and again, even if he regretted that they did not go 
about in their habits and were usually disguised as clergy 
men, tearing around on motor bicycles or driving automo 
biles! Poor Fra Jerome wished he could get back to the thir 
teenth century and forget all the inventions of the twentieth 
century. He felt like a square peg in a round hole. 



Toward Evening 261 

His publicity had brought him at least half-a-dozen cor 
respondents who begged to be allowed to come and lead an 
eremitical life on Cat Island under Fra Jerome s direction, 
but he managed to "choke them off," saying: "I could not run 
a community, however small, even of hermits, and I am not 
called to do so. How could I dfctate to other people how to 
live? I am more and more alone now, my daily prayer is Give 
us to see Thy Will and power to walk in its path/ striving 
after more interior detachment, expiation and penance like 
a Cistercian or Carthusian." Fra Jerome insisted that "proper 
hermits" do not found orders or communities. 

He admitted that he could never have endured the Carthu 
sian life because of the terribly long-drawn-out Office, with 
the added burden o the Little Office of Our Lady, the Office 
. for the Dead, and the "extra dry Mass" every morning. He 
had always been more attracted to the Gamaldolesi hermit- 
monks, who do not add on extra Offices, but who spend much 
time in silent mental prayer. He felt that people ought to 
realize that a hermit is not the same thing as an anchorite. 
In the Middle Ages most hermits, although living alone, "had 
jobs looking after lighthouses, bridges, chapels, leper houses, 
hospitals, even schools. Richard Rolle went in and out of the 
people s houses. Only the anchorites (when walled in) were 
ipso facto solitaries, and their anchorage always had a window 
where the people (often of their own town or village) came 
to pour out their troubles. The sorrows of the world must 
have sorrowed the anchorites, however much their inmost 
soul was fixed in union with God. The very early solitaries 
of the Egyptian desert were the only real hermit crabs! I 
don t see that the missionary and solitary elements of my 
poor character war with each other, any more so than in the 
Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and medieval hermits (not anchorites) 
who loved plenty of cold-water baths, long walking pilgrim 
ages, and yet lived in close contact with the people. Surely 
He hath borne our afflictions/ and the medieval hermit was 



262 The Hermit of Cat Island 

close to Him, in taking to heart the afflictions of the people 
even more intimately and sensitively than any Trappist 
monk." 

It pleased Fra Jerome to discover that Thomas Merton in 
The Seven Storey Mountain and The Waters of Siloe "fights 
all the time to show that the mortification and isolation (con 
templation) of the Cistercians and other purely contempla 
tive orders is for the salvation of souls. . . . Real love of God 
can find its expression only in the salvation of other souls 
in mission work or propitiation. God calls chosen souls apart 
into the desert; and some of these solitary souls He sends out 
again into the haunts of men." 

By 1952 the old hermit had to struggle hard against in 
terior temptations, which he revealed in letters to his more 
intimate friends. A vigorous young Benedictine priest was 
sent to Cat Island whose ideas of mission work differed 
strongly from those of Fra Jerome, and who made many 
changes. 

There were complaints, and Fra Jerome tried to pour oil 
on the troubled waters and to rally the people to their new 
pastor, trying hard not to interfere in any way and to do 
nothing without being asked. He wrote, "I am sure that God 
lets all this come to teach me detachment, and to purge me 
of pride, self-satisfaction and self-preoccupation. I try not to 
brood and grumble. No doubt, if I could only see it so, God 
is leading this priest to do things in a much better and more 
efficient way than I could ever have done." 

On March 5, 1953, he was feeling depressed with every 
thing and almost everybody. "I suppose that a hermit even 
more than a monk is an outmoded anachronism even to many 
Catholics, and that 7 am still quite wrong, even in my archi 
tecture." This mood persisted, and on September 7 he wrote, 
"Today is my seventy-seventh birthday seven years too long 
beyond the allotted span. I m getting more and more 



Toward Evening 283 

stripped* of everything, and detached. Even architecture in 
terests me very little now. I sleep very badly and have fearful 
nights. The new mission priest is away in the U.S.A. on a 
three months vacation, and no help has been sent me except 
one visit of another priest to the outlying southern stations. 
So all the burden is on my shoulders. Yesterday at dawn I 
started for Sunday Mass and slipped on the wet rock and fell 
down twice on my back on the way down the hill. If there 
is any bad behavior or laughter in church I miss seeing or 
hearing it. I can t intone anything or make myself heard," 

It was not quite true when Fra Jerome said that even archi 
tecture interested him very little now. He expressed at this 
time some very strong opinions about the new Catholic cathe 
dral at Liverpool, doubting if it would ever be built He 
made two sketches showing his ideas of a simple and far less 
costly reinforced concrete cathedral, which could be com 
pleted in a few years, saying that Lutyens designs, in these 
days, were "quite impracticable." 

A few months laterfhe wrote, "I look well (so everybody 
tells me), sunburned, but I am full of infirmities weak and 
dizzy. I have no taste, no smell, and hardly any voice, only a 
croaking, hoarse whisper with great effort. Three hours* sleep 
at night is my best. St. Teresa of Avila in her old age com 
plained of noises and weaknesses in the head, and of the con 
tinuous roaring like waves of the sea in her ears. I have just 
the same, a continual buzzing and hissing sound. God goes 
on stripping me of everything. I am in the dark night of the 
senses. My constant prayer is to have unreserved surrender 
and conformity to His holy will." 

Like many another old man Fra Jerome was living moie 
in the past than in die present; spending long hours dozing 
or dreaming of his boyhood, youth and early manhood. He 
jotted down reminiscences that were still fresh in his miod. 

"In earlier years I once felt that I could make a readable 



264 The Hermit of Cat Island 

book on Places where I have slept not meaning such re 
spectable spots as my baby cot, a back form in the school 
classroom, a high-paneled box pew in an old-fashioned Prot 
estant church, an armchair in the front row of a convent 
college concert during a recitation, or even a straight-backed 
seat during a midday meditation delivered at a priests* re 
treat. No I was thinking of myself as a barefooted tramp 
under a haystack in the English countryside, or in a ditch 
under a hawthorn hedge in the open fields. Under an over 
turned railway trolley with a hostile dog of large dimensions 
sniffing and growling outside. In a farmer s barn entered 
stealthily after dark. In a twopenny doss house of a town 
slum. In the jail-like cell of an old-style British workhouse/ 
In a cold North Sea breeze, a coil of rope for my pillow, on 
the deck of a coastal tramp steamer. Under the tropical stars 
below the flapping sails of a trading schooner. In a tool shed 
amidst the graves of the dead in an untidy churchyard. Be 
low decks in a stuffy six-berthed cabin of an emigrant ship, 
where the rats and mice ran over us. In one of the shelflike 
tiers of bunks of a Salvation Army shelter in Montreal. In 
a cattle van on a Canadian freight train, reposing in the hay 
rack just above the horned heads of the animals. As a tired- 
out mule driver in a tent beside a rushing mountain torrent 
in a Canadian railroad construction camp. In a snow-covered 
settler s log cabin beside the rail track high up over the Great 
Divide into British Columbia. 

"In such places it was rather where I did not sleep but 
shivered through the long night watches till dawn. I have 
sat out the night with intermittent dozing, stiff and cramped, 
in the corner of a third-class carriage in Spain, crowded with 
peasantry getting in and out at every little station, but feast 
ing my eyes in the morning on the Alhambra of Granada. 
One night I spent with the mosquitoes, trying to sleep on a 
stone bench against the wall of Our Lady s pilgrimage chapel 



Toward Evening 265 

on the height overlooking Matanzas in Cuba. A succession of 
five weary nights I endured on the heaving bare boards in 
the hold of a West Indian trading sloop, the bilge water 
gushing through the seams of the inner lining boards at every 
lurch and plunge, with swarms of cockroaches scuttling to 
and fro. 

"While I was a sub-deacon I slept once in a quaintly 
perched little room over a transept of an Italian mountain 
church; it was wedged in between the vaulting and the outer 
tiled roof, and reached by walking along the giddy top of a 
cornice inside the church, crossing the end wall of the tran 
sept. The window opened on to a little balcony from whence 
you gazed down on a sheer drop of hundreds of feet on to 
the treetops of a pine-clad ravine. 

"Of places where I have slept I could count up many happy 
recollections of Western Australia. As a bushwhacker priest, 
with a parish of 40,000 square miles, how often have I camped 
the night out under the moonbeams or the brilliant stars. 
One must scoop a little hollow in the ground for one s hip 
bone, and then lying down beside the red embers of the 
campfire, with saddle for pillow, one can restfully study the 
wonderful constellations in the clear heavens above. A soft, 
warm breeze wafts aft the healthful scent of eucalyptus from 
the guin trees, and the tinkle of the horse s back bell, as 
hobbled he feeds contentedly in the long grass and wild 
flowers, affords a comforting sense of companionship. 

"And once on a pitch-black night lit up by blinding flashes 
and with peals of thunder, in a deluge of rain I crouched 
under the belly of my tall seventeen-hands saddle horse, 
standing against the roofless mud-brick walls of a lonely oM 
bush hostelry, known as Shadow of Death. A change of 
scene to a bed, improvised on bags of cement within the risr 
ing stone walls of a new church, to be awakened abruptly 
from solid slumber by a fight between my dog and the car- 



266 The Hermit of Cat Island 

penter s. Not to speak of nights broken by sick calls necessitat 
ing a motorcar drive of sixty miles or more, carrying the 
Blessed Sacrament and holy oils, with many bumps and shak 
ings, along those deeply rutted tracks. I call to mind a night 
spent in my stable, nursing a deadly sick foal, a prize thor 
oughbred who made a wonderful recovery from tetanus and 
grew up to achieve some honor on the race track and to be 
come an outstanding stallion. 

"Then there was another sleepless night when Tlorinda 
had a litter of six pups in my bedroom at the priest s house, 
at 12.30 A.M. on a Sunday morning and to choose a Sunday 
of all days! In railroad journeys, between the four little 
bush towns of my Australian parish, many a night I have 
traveled sleeping on the floor boards in the swaying, rattling 
guard s van of a stock train; getting home earlier this way than 
waiting for the daytime slower passenger express. Well! Here 
I must put on the grinding brakes for a station." 

These were the things Fra Jerome recalled as he lay on his 
palm mat, more often than not unable to sleep and often 
racked with pain. Few laymen, and even fewer priests, could 
look back on such a strange and varied past as that which 
filled the recollections of the Hermit of Cat Island. 



14. 



The Last Journey "[I95*-1956] 



DURING July of 1954, Fra Jerome s last year on his Cat Island 
hilltop, Maurice Lavanoux, Secretary of the Liturgical Arts 
Society, flew to the Bahamas and climbed the narrow path to 
Mount Alvernia "the last word in roughing it for a city 
man" to visit the old hermit These two men, both so en 
thusiastic about Christian art but seeing it from different 
angles, had often fought on paper, yet for an hour or two 
past battles were forgotten. This is how Mr. Lavanoux re 
corded his impressions: 

"As we came near the top of the hill, there was Fra Jerome 
standing near the little tower of his stone hermitage. I had 
seen the fine color photograph illustrating Bill Davidson s 
article in Colliers . . . but on first meeting Fra Jerome in the 
flesh, a flood of memories crowded on me and I could not say 
much. We often hear of completely dedicated persons whose 
life of devotion to the will of God and to the precepts of holy 
poverty is an uncomfortable reminder of our own daily in 
difference, but then our modern mind goes back to the days 
of St. Francis of Assisi to St. Benedict. We complacently iso 
late such thoughts in that shadowy past and unconscioosiy 
forget them. The life of a hermit today is difficult for many 

267 



268 The Hermit of Cat Island 

of us to understand. In Fra Jerome s case we have a hermit 
whose life has been a productive one." 

The immediate result of Mr. Lavanoux s visit to the Ba 
hamas was the inclusion of some very appreciative remarks 
about Fra Jerome s architecture, carving and painting in the 
following issue of Liturgical Arts, some of which already have 
been quoted. But the seventy-eight-year-old hermit was too 
weary now to entertain distinguished visitors even when they 
shared his interests. 

By November Fra Jerome confessed that his hand was so 
unsteady that it was difficult for him to hold a pen, and said, 
"When a man has become a useless encumbrance it is futile 
to prolong old age by making all sorts of efforts. God works 
in different people in so many different and opposite ways. 
One must be content to look upon one s missionary work 
as a failure. I accept all that He sends. I criticize (still less 
condemn) nothing. When I built this hermitage I thought 
nothing of the rough steps to climb. Now all is different, and 
it has become a most awkward and dangerous place a real 
prison. Even the very Bahamas, which I once thought a Para 
dise, I now regard as most unpleasant, what with the hurri 
canes, storms, winds, extreme heat and cold, insects, impene 
trable bush, thunder and lightning. I suffer from nervous 
breakdown the jitterbugs and a sort of St. Vitus s dance. 
I cannot lie down or sit still. I am all jerks! Usually I have 
three bad nights, sometimes no sleep at all, followed by one 
good night. During the day I have a perpetual headache and 
feel ever so tired. 

"In September one night I fell down in the kitchen and 
caught my head against the rough stone jamb of a doorway, 
badly cutting and bruising the top of my cranium, the blood 
streaming down my face, but I felt no pain; it bled for ten 
hours. I lay down on the bed. I could not say Mass that morn 
ing. Not a soul came near the place, so after three days I 



The Last Journey 269 

stumbled down the hill to seek some help. I was hauled and 
pushed home, and then I did not leave the hermitage for 
eight weeks. ... I long to put off this tabernacle and to cry 
Welcome! Sister Death/ but I have to tarry till she comes. 
Fiat Voluntas Tua in universal surrender and conformity 
to God s will. The kind Bishop heard of my accident and 
begged me to stay at Nassau. But I want to be alone, and left 
quiet here in the hermitage." 

In a letter dated February 7, 1955, he admitted that he 
might be an "obstinate old man," but that he was determined 
to remain on by himself, maintaining that his vocation was 
that of a hermit and that he could not face the idea of living 
in a monastery and having everything done for him. He had 
some consolation in the appointment of a good new priest 
at Gat Island, Father Nicholas Kremer, O.S.B. He felt so 
tired that it was difficult even to say the rosary without falling 
asleep. The Bishop had sent him vitamin pills, but in spite 
of everything he often found it impossible to stand or walk 
straight. The writing in pencil had become a scrawl and diffi 
cult to decipher. But he could still draw a rough Franciscan 
tau cross, and around it the words: "Deus metis et omnia" 

The hermit was now in his eightieth year. Reports of his 
rapidly failing health alarmed Bishop Leonard, who eventu 
ally insisted that Fra Jerome must go to Nassau, where he 
could be cared for by the monks. After a few weeks in the 
monastery he moved to the Bishop s house, but he did not re 
main there for long. His condition became worse and there 
was nothing to do except care for him in the infirmary of 
St. Augustine s Monastery. In the late autumn of 1955 a 
typed letter was sent to several of his friends, to which he 
scrawled his signature. He said: "I am unable to write or to 
do any sort of mission work or to dispense any charities be 
cause I am a very sick man. So please do not write to me any 
more. I suffer from all the weakness and infirmities of old 



270 The Hermit of Cat Island 

age. I am very giddy and can scarcely walk at all. My memory 
fails me and I have lost my voice. I can only offer my infirm 
ities in union with Our Lord s watching in Gethsemane. His 
holy will be done in all things. I pray for you and for all those 
who have commended themselves to my prayers. Let us all 
practice penance and pray for a sick world. God bless you and 
yours." 

Now he knew that the end was not far off, even if Sister 
Death lingered on her way. He wanted her to come boldly, 
for like the Little Poor Man he knew that she was the gate 
of life. Maybe, just as Francis sent for his beloved disciples 
Leo and Angelo and said to them, "Sing to me; sing to me 
my song of the creatures," Fra Jerome may have wished to ask 
some of the monks to do the same for him. No matter there 
can be little doubt that as he lay in bed in the monastery at 
Nassau he remembered that new verse of the Canticle of the 
Sun, composed by Francis as he lay sick in the bishop s palace 
at Assisi. 

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Death, 

From whom no man living can escape, 

Alas for those who die in mortal sin, 

But happy they who find themselves within Thy will, 

On them the second death can work no harm. 

On March 28, 1956, the hermit sent out a similar typed 
letter containing further details. He had now lost all sense 
of taste and remarked that this was "a good safeguard against 
gluttony," and that "onions taste just like carrots; cheese is 
like soap or sawdust." So, unlike St. Francis, who asked the 
Lady Giacoma to bring him some marzipan when he lay 
dying in the isolated cell beside the chapel of the Portiuncula 
near Assisi, Fra Jerome would not have been able to taste 
candy if any rich lady of Nassau had visited him in the monas- 



The Last Journey 271 

tic Infirmary. He could hear a little with ooe ear, but even 
with glasses could hardly read at all. His constant prayer was 
that he would be able to return to his beloved hermitage. In 
literal imitation of the Little Poor Man, he wanted to be laid 
upon the bare ground and there to die. However, the state of 
his health, both physical and mental, made this impossible, 

What happened during the last two months of his life was 
recorded by the Prior of St. Augustine s Monastery, the Very 
Reverend Frederic Frey, who was in dose touch with Fra 
Jerome during this time. 

"On the evening of April 19, 1956, he sustained a broken 
femur as the result of a fall in his room* Due to excessive pain 
he was taken to the local hospital for care and treatment but 
the X ray indicated that the break was of such a kind that he 
could not be treated at Nassau and required attention in the 
United States, At the doctor s suggestion he was flown the 
following day to St Francis Hospital, Miami Beach, Florida. 
He consented to this very reluctantly and only when we told 
him that he would be in the care of Franciscan Sisters and a 
Franciscan priest at the hospital. On his arrival at the hospital 
it was discovered that he had contracted pneumonia. This 
delayed for one week the surgical treatment of the broken 
femur. 

"I might add as a side remark that the doctors and nurses 
at first had great difficulty in understanding Fra Jerome s 
eremitical mode of life, especially as regards his abstinence in 
food. But they developed a great attachment to him during 
his weeks with them as the result of his extraordinary degree 
of patience and humility which he showed at all times. His 
cheerfulness captivated them. I mention this as I was with 
him for almost three weeks on his arrival and again during 
his last two days. 

"His recovery after surgery had been performed was quite 
normal* At the time the doctors were treating Him for several 



272 The Hermit of Cat Island 

of his infirmities. He had progressed so well that on the 
morning of June 23 the Sisters at the hospital wrote that Fra 
Jerome was well enough to be taken back to the monastery. 
That same afternoon he suddenly had a relapse, in all prob 
ability owing to the extreme heat and humidity. His breath 
ing became very labored and he was immediately put into 
an oxygen tent. However, the congestion which had de 
veloped in his lungs and throat weakened him extremely, and 
we were notified that he had been anointed that evening, 
and that I should come to him. This I did at the first oppor 
tunity on the following morning. On my arrival I found that 
he was still very weak and unable to speak but apparently 
not in pain. He was most cheerful and greeted me with a big 
smile. He made an effort to talk but was unable to do so. He 
was perfectly contented and willing to answer the summons 
of his Master. These three last days were days of prayer and 
resignation to the will of God, and he quietly breathed forth 
his soul at 2.07 A.M. on June 26." 

In one of his notebooks Fra Jerome had left the following 
instructions: 

"In the event of my death please notify the Bishop, The 
Priory, Nassau. Please bury me immediately in the Burial 
Crypt (little cave) just below the chapel. (This presupposes 
that I m not drowned at sea and disposed of by a shark.) 

"NO COFFIN or wooden shell. 

"Place the body clothed in the Franciscan habit and rope 
girdle, barefooted; no flowers. Place it lying flat (on back) 
on the bare rock at the extreme east end of the cave with 
feet toward the east and arms outstretched in the form of a 
cross. Then wall up the low arch of natural rock at A.B. with 
stones and some lime mortar. 

"/ C. Hawes 
Fra Jerome" 



The Last Journey 273 

In accordance with these instructions the hermit s body 
was taken by boat to Nassau where it arrived on the after 
noon of June 28. The following morning the Office for the 
Dead was chanted in the cathedral by Bishop Paul Leonard 
Hagarty, the monks and the clergy; then the Bishop sang 
the pontifical Requiem Mass. Fra Jerome s body was flown 
to Gat Island, where it was placed in the cave on Mount 
Alvernia, just as he had always desired. The Hermit of Gat 
Island had at last found the solitude for which so many 
years he had struggled in vain. 




LAST WILL & TESTAMENT OF 

Joannes Cyrillus Hawes, Sacerdos 
Antistites Urbanus idest Praelatus Papae Domesticus 

Feast of Our Lady of the Angek 
(Portiuncula) 

I BROTHER JEROME of the Third Order of Saint Francis, 
hermit, die in the Faith of the One True Holy Catholic and 
Apostolic Roman Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I commend 
my soul to God, to Our Blessed Lady, to my Holy Father Saint 
Francis and to the charitable prayers of my friends and especially 
of my brother priests. I have left no legally attested will, because 
there is no need of one: In loving response to the call and coun 
sel of my dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ I have already 
disposed of such earthly goods as I had, and given to the poor. 
I carry on by a small yearly annuity which I cannot alienate 
and which expires with my death; and until then, of the said 
annuity I pray I may be found a faithful steward to share it 
with Christ s poor in my neighbors here. 

The Hermitage of Mount Alvernia, together with the eight 
acres of land surrounding it, is not my property: after purchase 
of the land in 1940 (February) I legally transferred it, with 
everything at any time thereon, to "The Roman Catholic Pre 
fect [now "Vicar"] Apostolic of the Bahamas." I have nothing 
else to leave and thank God that I die a poor man. 

This is my hand and seal 

Brother Jerome 

John C. Hawes [ SEAL ] 

2 August 1942 
Witness 

My Guardian Angel [SEAL] 
Witness 

Blessed Bernard of Quintavalle (Assisi) [SEAL] 

Signed, sealed and delivered at the Hermitage, Mount Alvernia, 

The Bight, Cat Island, Bahamas. 

274 



THE LITANY OF THE HERMITS 

Drawn up by Fra Jerome and 
recited by him every night 

St. Mary, Queen of Hermits, pray for us 

St. Mary of Mount Carmel . . . 

All ye holy hermits and solitaries . . . 

St. John the Baptist, "Prince of Hermits" . . 

St. Mary Magdalene . . . 

St. Paul the first hemiit . . . 

St. Anthony . . . 

St. Mary of Egypt . . , 

St. Jerome . . . 

St. Martin . * 

St. Romuald . . . 

St. Gelatine . . . 

Holy Father St. Francis . . . 

All ye holy Franciscan hermits and solitaries . . . 

Brother John of Alvernia . . . 

Brother Giles . . . 

St. Clare . . . 

BI. John of Parma . . . 

BL Paolo Giustiniano . . . 

St. Bruno . . . 

St. Benedict Joseph Labre . . * 

St. Cuthbert . . . 

St. Godric of Finchale- . . , 

St. Neot . . . 

St. Roman . . . 

St. Guthlac of Growland . . . 

St. Petroc . . . 

BL Richard Rolle . . . 

BL Juliana of Norwich . . . 

BL Charles de Foucauld . . . 

Holy Hermits of Tintagel . . . 

275 



Appendix 

BUILDINGS DESIGNED BY JOHN C. HAWES 

1897-1908 

Bognor, Sussex: The White Tower and three other seaside cot 
tages 

Gunnerton, Northumberland: St. Christopher s Church 
Painsthorpe Abbey, Yorkshire: Chapel for Anglican Benedictines 
Alton Abbey, Hampshire: Gatehouse, and church,* for Order 

of St. Paul 

Coltishall, Norfolk: Billiard room and additions to The Grove 

Caldey Island, South Wales: Monastic guesthouse; restorations 

of medieval priory church, village church and round tower 

oratory; "gatehouse* 1 monastery*; and new abbey and church* 

(for Anglican Benedictine monks) 

Saltley, Birmingham: Alteration and refurnishing of three 
churches 

1908-1911 

Bahama Islands, B.WJ. Four Anglican churches on Long Island; 

(Nassau) baldachino in St. Matthew s, and Holy Souls Chapel 

in St. Mary s 

Graymoor, Garrison, New York (1911): St. Francis Chapel 
Surrey, Sutton, England: New chancel, Our Lady of the Rosary 

Church 

1915-1939 

Geraldton, Western Australia: Cathedral; St. Lawrence Church, 
Bluff Point; cemetery chapel; Nazareth House; St. John of 
God Convent; Christian Brothers school; "The Hermitage/ 

Churches: Mullewa, Perenjori, Morawa, Northampton, Carnar 
von, Nanson, Willina, Three Springs. Convents: Yalgoo, Tar- 
i Those designs marked (*) were not executed. 

276 



Appendix 277 

dun f Nanson. Christian Brothers farm school, Tardun; PJS.M. 

Monastery, Tardun; priest s house, Mullewa 
Ballarat: New cathedral * and two churches * 
Perth: New cathedral * 
Melbourne: Chapel for diocesan seminary * 
New Norcia: Abbey church * 
Costa Rica: Additions to sanctuary and chapels of church at 

Port Limdn 

1940-1956 

Cat Island: (1940-1) Hermitage and Chapel of the Holy Spirit, 
Mount Alvernia; (1941-7) Holy Redeemer, Freetown; (1942) 
Our Lady of Sion, Port Howe; (1943) St. John the Baptist, 
Bain Town; (1945) St. Francis of Assisi, Old Bight 

Long Island: (1947) Sts, Peter and Paul, Clarence Town; (1946) 
Dunmore 

New Providence Island: (1946) St. Augustine s College, Fox 
Hill, Nassau (enlarged by R. V. McCann, 1953-4); St, Augus 
tine s Monastery, Fox Hill, Nassau (first unit, 1947; crypt and 
foundation of church, 1949-50) ; (1948-9) convent and ckapel 
of Blessed Martin de Porres, Nassau; new cathedral,* Nassau 

Bimini Islands: Holy Name 

Rhode Island, USji.: Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of the Val 
ley, designs for guest house and enlargement of church * 



Index 



Abaca Island, B.W.I., 130, 181 
Aborigines, Australian, 72-3, 89 
Abram s Hill, Mayaguana, 107 
Addeiiey, Rev. James G., 14, 35, 

37, 38, 39 

Africa, Central, Universities Mis 
sion to, 9-10, 13 
Alban, Father, O.SJB., 244 
Alton Abbey, Hampshire, design 

for gate house of, 19, 217 
Alvernia, Mount, Cat Island, 

BAWL, 127, 149, 155-6, 161, 

180,189,190,194,209,210,211; 

"Rule of,** 184; Fra Jerome 

buried on, 273 
Ambrose, Father, O.S.B., 191 
Amiens, France, 10 
Amigo, Bishop of Soathwark, 55, 

60,89 

Anselm, Brother, O.S.B., 253 
Architectural Association Schools, 

England, 7 

Arthur s Town, Cat Idand, 119 
Arts and Crafts Society, London, 

8 

Art Workers Gufld, London, 8 
Assisi, Italy, Father Hawes in, 111 
Atonement, Society of the, 46-7, 

50, 54; united with Rome, 46 

Bahama Islands, B.WX, missions 
in, 64, 88; John Hawes con 
siders going as missionary to, 
95, 106, lllff.; Fra Jerome be 
comes hermit in, 119 ff. 

Baintown, Cat Island, B.W.I., 139, 
163, 211 

Ballarat, cathedral of, Ballard, 
Australia, 191, 236-7 



Barry, Rev. Cofanan J., QSJ&-, 

cited, 88 

Beauvais, France, 10 
Beda College, Rome, 5% 61, 67; 

John Haves enters, 60 
Benedict, St, 238; Rule of, 6 
Benedict Joseph Labie, St, 154 
Benedictine Mission in Bahama 
Islands, 64, 88-9, 117-18, 147, 
159, 195-6, 198-9, 250, 255 
Bergh, (XSJB., Abbot of Rams- 
gate, 89 
Bernadette Soubixoos, St, 174, 

186 
Bernard of Qairvaux, St. cited, 

154 

Bernard of QointavaBe, <BL), 127 
Bethany, Sisters of, Anglican com 
munity, 24 
Bight, the, Cat Island, 119, 130, 

138, 139, 148, 152 
Blessed Martin de Porres, Sisters 
of, Fra Jerome gives retreat to, 
189; makes rood for convent of, 
202, 245; designs convent of, 
227, 244 

Blue Hole Channel, B.WX, 147 
Bognor, Sussex, 4; architectural 

designs at, 11, 216 
Bolsena, Italy, 66 
Boogardie, Australia, 75, 79 
Bouiges, France, 10 
Brendan, Father, O.S.B., 170 
Bridget, St, chapel dedicated to, 

33 

British Architect, The, 11, 217 
Budfast Abbey, England, 115 
Bueischinger, Father Herbert, 
O.S.B., 120 



279 



280 

Burgoine, Jim, 79, 84 
Burstall, Bryan, 27 



Index 



Caldey, Isle of, Wales, 26, 28; ac 
quired by Abbot Aelred Carlyle, 
25-6; Father Hawes draws up 
plans for monastery on, 26 ff.; 
establishment of Anglican Ben 
edictine Community on, 26; 
Brother Jerome leaves, 29; 
spends week on, 39 ff.; corporate 
reunion with Rome of com 
munity on, 62; designs for 
monastery buildings on, 218 

Calgary, Canada, 56 

Callahan, Father, 143 

Canadian Pacific Railroad, con 
struction camp of, 56 

Canterbury Cathedral, 6 

Capuchin Annual, 257 

Carceri, Monte Subasio, Italy, 
Father Hawes visits, 111, 167 

Carlyle, Abbot Aelred, O.S.B., 19, 
20, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 33, 47, 62, 
89, 218 

Carlyle, Benjamin Fearnley. See 
Carlyle, Aelred 

Cat Island, B.W.L, 88, 117, 119, 
126, 129, 130, 136, 166, 175, 176, 
196, 200, 202, 207, 211, 250; hur 
ricane strikes, 154 ff.; poverty 
on, 160-1 

Catholic Digest, The, 257 

Catholic Herald, The, 124 

Caudebec, France, 10 

Chambers, Dom George, 30, 32 

Chartres, France, 10 

Cherokee Sound, B.W.I., 131-2, 
133 

Chesterton, Cecil, 37 

Chollerton, Northumberland, 16 

Christian Social Union, 14 

Christian Socialist movement, 14 

Church Review, The, 19 

Church Times, The, 9, 47 



Church Unity Octave, 46 
Clarence Town, Long Island, 

B.W.I., 41, 120, 195 
Claudia, Sister M., 89 
Clerkenwell, London, slum of, 

21-3 
Clune, Archbishop of Perth, 90, 

94, 103 

Collier s, article in, 256-7, 267 
Columbus, Christopher, proposed 

memorial to, 88-9 
Coma Hill, Cat Island, B.W.I., 

119, 126, 138, 139 
Commonwealth, The, Franciscan 

article in, 14 
Comper, Ninian, 226 
Conception Island, B.W.L, 88, 146 
Corrigan, Michael, Archbishop of 

New York, 88 
Cram, Ralph Adams, 52 
Crossing Rocks, B.W.L, 133 
Crowsnest Pass, B.C., Canada, 59 
Cue, Australia, 70, 71, 72, 73-4, 75 
Cuthbert, Brother, 32, 34, 35 

Darville, Felix, 148, 149 

Davidson, Bill, 256, 257, 267 

Davison, Raffles, 217 

Day Dawn, Australia, 70, 71, 75 

Deadman s Cay, Long Island, 
B.W.I., 41, 42, 44, 120, 129, 139, 
147; restoration of Anglican 
church at, 219 

Deutsch, Abbot Alcuin, O.S.B., 
195, 200, 206, 255 

Devall, Canon, 191 

Deveaux, Mrs. Augusta, 137, 138 

Devil s Point, Cat Island, B.W.L, 
248, 250, 251 

Divine Compassion, Society of, 
Anglican Franciscan commu 
nity, 14, 25, 30 

Dominie, Father Hawes fox ter 
rier, 108 ff,, 122-3, 125, 167-8, 
252-3 



Index 



281 



Donahue, Bishop Stephen J. f 190, 

200, 205 

Dover, Bishop of, 7 
Dunmore Town, Eleuthera, 

B.W.I., 123, 124 

Edah, Australia, 75 

Edmerton and Gabriel, architec 
tural firm of, 7 

Ewart, Abbess Scholastica, 62 

Eyre, Rev. Vincent, 21, 22, 23, 24, 
67 

Family that Overtook Christ, 

The, by Father M. Raymond, 

O.C.S.O., 174 
Farley, John Cardinal, Archbishop 

of New York, 51, 64 
Feigusson, Paschal, son of Victor 

Fergusson, 173 
Fergusson, Victor, 131-7, 146-8, 

154, 160, 164, 173 
Foster, Christopher, 118 
Foucauld, Charles de, influence of, 

126, 128, 161, 163, 185 
Francis of Assisi, SL, 58, 129, 270- 

1; influence on John Hawes of, 

14, 24, 122, 126, 184, 185, 238; 

cited, 185-6, 214 
Francis, Father, 51, 53 
Francis, Rev. Paul James, 46, 50, 

51, 52, 53 
Freetown, Cat Island, 150, 152, 

155, 158, 164, 189, 203, 205, 207, 
210, 211 

Frey, Father Frederic, O.S.B., 158, 
196, 200, 206, 255; cited, 271-2 

Frith, Rev. Herbert, 24 

Fulham Palace, John Hawes or 
dained Anglican clergyman in, 
21 

Futterer, Abbot Edmond, O.C.S.O., 
201 

Fynes-Clinton, H. J., 6 



Gateley, Rev. Percy, 67 

George, Monsignor, rector of the 
Beda College, 60, 64 

Geraldton, Australia, 65, 99; di 
ocese of, 68, 89; Mondgoor 
Hawes leaves, 109 

Geraldton Cup, Father Hawes 
wins, 96 

Gill, Eric, cited, 95 

Goodhart-Rendel, H. S^ cited, 216 

Gore, Dr., Bishop of Birmingham, 
35 

Graymoor, New York, 45, 46, 50, 
54; first impressions of, 51; de 
signs chapel for, 52 

Great Fingall Dump, Day Dawn, 
Australia, 71 

Greenough, Australia, 101, 109, 
124 

Gummer, Dr., Bishop of Gerald- 
ton, 170 

Gunnerton, Northumberland, 11; 
church designed by Hawes at, 
11, 15-16, 17, 217 

Gurdon, Dom Edmund, cited, 
174, 185 

Hagarty, Father Leonard, O.SJB., 
158, 269, 273; consecrated 
bishop and appointed Vicar 
Apostolic of the Bahamas, 259- 
60 
Harbour Island, Eleuthera, B.W.I., 

123 

Havana, Cuba, 87 
Hawes family, 3-4, 13, 54-5, 59, 67 
Hayes, Patrick Cardinal, Arch 
bishop of New York, 95 
Hecker, Father Isaac, cited, 113 
Herman, Father, Q.S.B., 250 
Hermitage, the, Cat Island, 
B.W.I., construction of, 139-45 
"Hermitage," the, GeraMton, 101 
Hispaniola, Brother Jerome s irst 
vessel, 42, 43, 129 



282 



Index 



Hog Island, B.W.I., 135 

Holy Child Jesus, Anglican Sister 
hood of the, 46 

Holy Comforter, Anglican Sister 
hood of, 24 

Holy Cross Church, Morawa, Aus 
tralia, 226 

Holy Redeemer, church of, Qerk- 
enwell, John Hawes becomes 
curate at, 21 ff. 

Holy Redeemer, church of, Free 
town, Cat Island, B.W.I., 152, 
156, 197, 200, 202, 207; construc 
tion of, 150; description of, 230, 
246; sacristy destroyed by fire, 
208; services in, 157-8, 192, 203 

Holy Rosary, church of the, Sut- 
ton, Surrey, 220 

Holy Savior, Companions of the, 
36 

Holy Trinity Church, Sloane 
Street, London, 8 

Hornley, Bishop Wilfrid, 15-17, 
18, 20, 22, 24, 39, 40, 48, 49 

H6tel de Inglaterra, Seville, 98 

How to Build a Church, by Father 
Benedict Williamson, 227, 237 

Illtud, Brother. See Burstall, 

Bryan 

Imitation of Christ, The, 183 
Ingram, Winnington, Bishop of 

London, 21, 23 
In the Steps of St. Francis, by 

Ernest Raymond, 103, 104 
Ireland, early Christian buildings 

in, 99; tour of, 99 
Isle of Man, as chaplain on, 33-5 

Jerome, Brother, John C. Hawes 
known on Caldey as, 27 

Jerome, Fra, John C. Hawes 
adopts name of, 136 

Jerusalem, Monsignor Hawes 
visits, 111 



Jumiges, France, 10 

Kelly, Alfred Joseph, Bishop of 
Geraldton, Australia, 64, 65, 68, 
86, 220; death of, 90 

Kevenhoerster, Father Bernard, 
O.S.B., 89, 113, 117, 118, 126, 
129, 135, 149, 156, 189, 200, 203, 
205, 206, 250; consecrated 
bishop, 95; death of, 254 

King, Dr., Bishop of Lincoln, 18 

King s School, Canterbury, 1, 198 

Knowles, Jonathan, 121 

Kremer, Father Nicholas, O.S.B., 
168, 269 

Lake Champlain, the, emigrant 

ship, 55 

Lake Monger, Australia, 82 
Lamp, The, Graymoor publica 
tion, 47 
Lang, Cosmo Gordon, Bishop of 

Stepney, 36 

Langton-Jones, Commander; -159 
Lansbury, George, 37 
Lavanoux, Maurice, 267-8; cited, 

213 

Le Havre, France, 10 
Le Puy, France, 10 
Lethaby, William R., 7-8, 217 
Lincoln Theological College, John 

Hawes enters, 18, 20 
Lisieux, France, pilgrimage to, 112 
Little, Canon Knox, biography of 

St. Francis of Assisi, 14 
Little Flowers of St. Francis, 14 
Littlehampton, Sussex, 4 
Liturgical Arts, 213, 215, 230, 237, 

258, 268 
London County Council Arts and 

Crafts School, 7, 8 
London Polytechnic, 7 
Long Island, B.W.I., 39, 43, 44, 

45, 46, 117, 119, 120, 121, 146, 

154 



Index 



283 



Lorana, Mother, 46, 50, 51 



McGarvey, Rev. William, 36 
MacLeod, Canada, 56 
McWeeney, William, Benedictine 

oblate, 200 
Malta, Eucharistk Congress at, 

62 ff. 

Marcion, Father, 191 
Marsh Harbor, Abaco, B.W.I., 131 
Martin, Rev. George, 37, 38 
Mary Magdalene, St., church of, 

Munster Square, London, 9, 24 
Mary Magdalene, Sister. See 

Rosina, Mother 
Matanzas, Cuba, 88, 265 
Mayaguana, Island of, 107 
Mirror of Perfection, The, 14 
Mondloch, Father Arnold, G.S.B., 

121, 122, 129, 153, 201 
Montefiascone, Italy, 66 
Montreal, Canada, 56, 264 
Moorman, John R. H., 13 
Morrisy, Paddy, 73-^i 
Mortimer, Dr., 48, 49 
Mount Magnet, Australia, 68, 69, 

70, 75, 76, 78, 84 
Mullewa, Australia, 90, 91, 101, 

125, 223 

Mumbinia, Australia, 75 
Murphy, Sir Charles, Governor of 

the Bahamas, 197, 205 

Nassau, B.W.I., 40, 41, 44, 49, 88, 
117, 123, 191, 195, 196, 198, 
205, 219; Monsignor Hawes im 
pressions of, 118; voyage from 
Abaco to, 131-5; priest s retreat 
at, 159; designs for cathedral at, 
243-4 

Nazareth House, Bluff Point, Aus 
tralia, 101 

Newman, John Henry Cardinal, 
cited, 175 



New Noraa, Australia* Benedic 
tine monks of, 73, 109 

New Providence Island, B.WX, 
40; leper colony on, 127 

O Brien, PfayUib, 85 

(^Collins, James Patrick, Bishop 
of Geraldton, 95, 96, 97, 105, 
107,109,110,112,127,211,221, 
236; friendship between Father 
Hawes and, 100, 102, 103-4; 
gives permission to Father 
Hawes to retire to Bahamas, 
113 ff.; cited, 114-15, 211 

Q Connell, William Cardinal, 198 

Olga, the. See Roma. 

Orvieto, Italy, 66 

Osendorf, Father Cornelius, 
Q.S.B., 154, 195, 200, 244 

Our Lady of the Valley Monas 
tery, Valley Falls, RX, 201, 206, 
228,252 

Pacelli, Eugenio Cardinal, 102 

Painsthorpe Abbey, Anglican Ben 
edictine community of, 19-20; 
chapel designed for, 218 

Paris, France, 10, 112 

Pater, Walter, cited, 22 

Pax, Prinknash Abbey publica 
tion, 174, 175, 257 

Payne s Field, Australia, 82, 85 

PeekskOl, New York, 50, 89, 117 

Peter, Brother, 115 

Pincher s Creek, Canada, con 
struction camp near, 56 

Pius X, St. and Pope, 60; prayer 
to St. Joseph of, 92 

Pius XI, Pope, 103, 129; names 
Father Hawes as a dosaestk 
prelate, 102; audience with, 111; 
cited, 235 

Port Howe, Cat Island, B.WX, 
136, 137, 139, 141, 148, 149, 211, 
248, 249 



284 



Index 



Port Limon, Costa Rica, 87 
Poverty, by P. Regamey, 258 
Prendergast, Father James, 101 
Presentation of the B.V.M., Sisters 

of the, 68, 78 
Prince of the Apostles, The, by 

Revs. Paul James Francis and 

Spencer Jones, 46 
Prinknash Abbey, 47, 115, 173, 

241, 242, 243 
Prior, E. S., 8, 217 
Pugin, A. W., 243 

Quebec, Canada, 56 

Quest of Solitude, The, 177 

Regina (Saskatchewan) , Bishop 
of, 64 

Rhodes-Bristow, Canon, 12 

Roberts, Mrs., 168 

Robinson, O.F.M., Archbishop 
Paschal, 14 

Rocbird, the, Fra Jerome s dinghy, 
190, 194, 197, 203, 207 

Rocky Mountains, 57, 58 

Roerig, Father Leander, 123-4 

Rolle, Charles, 190 

Rolle, Richard, 185, 261; cited, 
176 

Roma, the, Fra Jerome s sailing 
boat, 133, 135, 136, 139, 146, 
147, 148, 154, 160, 163, 164, 
190 

Rome, Italy, 60, 62, 65, 66, 67, 111, 
112 

Rope, Rev. Henry E. G., 60, 193; 
cited, 60, 112; Father Hawes 
visits, 90, 112 

Rosina, Mother, 24, 50; estab 
lishes Anglican Franciscan com 
munity at Hull, 24-5, 32, 35; 
founds house in Dalston, 35-6; 
reconciled to Roman Catholic 
Church, 46-7; joins Franciscan 



Missionary Sisters, 52, 89, 95, 
106 

Rouen, France, 10 

Royal Academy Exhibition, 11, 
15 

Royal Institute of British Archi 
tects, 7 

Ryan, Dr., Bishop of Geraldton 
92, 93, 95, 97, 221 

Sacred Heart, Franciscan Mission 
ary Sisters of, 52, 117, 193 

St. Anne de Beaupre*, shrine of, 56 

St. Anselm s Monastery, New 
York, N.Y., 89, 117 

St. Augustine s Monastery and 
College, Nassau, B.W.I., 195-6, 
198, 199-200, 202, 207, 227, 271; 
description and construction of, 
238-42, 244-6, 253, 254-5 

St. Damian, Anglican convent of, 
24, 32 

St. Ethelburga, church of, 8 

St. Francis chapel, Graymoor, 52, 
219 

St. Francis, church of, Old Bight, 
Cat Island, 195, 203, 207, 211, 
248; description of, 230-2 

St. Francis Hospital, Miami 
Beach, Fla., 271 

St. Francis, Third Order of, John 
Hawes becomes member of, 
61-2; obtains permission to es 
tablish congregation of, 67; 
ideas for transformation of, 
167 ff.; adherence to Rule of, 
184 ff.; loose connection with, 
184 

St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, 
Geraldton, Australia, 65, 92-4, 
220; Father Hawes honored for 
design of, 102; description of, 
221-2 

St. George s Proprietary Chapel, 
Brighton, 5 



Index 



285 



St. John s Abbey, Collegeville, 

Minn., 64, 88, 250 
St. John the Baptist, church of, 

Baintown, Cat Island, 163 
St. John the Evangelist, Society of, 

Oxford, 32 
St. John of God, hospital of, Ger- 

aldton, 100, 101, 226 
St. John Lateran, basilica of, John 

Hawes ordained in, 66 
St. Joseph, church of, Perenjon, 

Australia, 227 
St. Hugh s Charterhouse, Crawley, 

31 
St. Laurence the Martyr, church 

of, Bluff Point, Geraldton, Aus 
tralia, 226 
St, Mary, church of, Holy Soul s 

Chapel in, 219 

St. Mary in Ara Coeli, North 
ampton, 227 

St Mary, church of, Mullewa, Aus 
tralia, 90 ff., 92, 94, 223-6 
St. Mary the Virgin, church of, 

New York, 49 
St. Matthew, church of, Nassau, 

B.W.I., 219 
St. Patrick s Cathedral, New York, 

49, 95 
St. Paul, church of, Clarence 

Town, 45-6, 153, 219; service 

held in, after restoration, 48; 

called "Pearl of the Bahamas," 

120, 195 
St. Paul the Apostle, church of, 

49 
St. Peter, church of, Greenough, 

Australia, 101 
Sts. Peter and Paul, church of, 

Clarence Town, Long Island, 

191, 195, 201, 205, 244 
St. Philip, church of, Dalston, 30, 

32 

St. Thomas, church of, 11 
St. Vincent de Paul, Sisters of 



Charity of, Fra Jerome gma re 
treat to, 189-90 

Saltiey, Birmingham, Father 
Hawes becomes curate at, 35, 37 

San Salvador, B.WJU 88, 120, 143; 
hurricane strikes, 156 

Santo Spirito, church ot Gerald- 
ton, 100, 101 

Schreiner, Rev. Chrysostom, 
CXSJB., 88 

Scott, Gilbert, 242 

Sedding, John D., 8, 22, 243 

Selby-Hall, Charles, 19, 55, 60, 
131; letters from John Hawes 
to, 62, 63, 66, 69, 92, 102, 189, 
208 

Selby-Hall, Mrs. Charles, 55, 60 

Seven Storey Mountain, The, by 
Thomas Merton, 262 

Seville, Spain, 98, 99 

Simms, Bahamian Anglican mis 
sion station, 43, 44 

Sirr, Rev. William, superior of 
Society of the Divine Compas 
sion, 30 

Snowden, Philip, 37 

Soliloquies of a Solitary, 175-7, 
181, 183-6, 256, 257 

Sang of Bernadette, The, by Franz 
Werfel, 174 

Spain, tour of, 98-9; influence of 
architecture of, 99 

Springs of Romance in the Litera 
ture of Europe, The, by George 
Wyndham, 226 

Stephen Remarx, fictional popu 
larization of Christian Social 
ism, 14 

Story of Assisi, The, by Una Duff 
Gordon, 14 

Strong, Carlton, 52 

Studio, The, publication, 21$ 

Sutton, Surrey, 59, 89 

Swinburn Castle, Northumber 
land, 16 



286 



Index 



Taubman, GoMie, 33-5 
Temple, Frederick, Archbishop of 

Canterbury, 19 
Teresa of Avila, St., 154, 263 
Three Rivers, Canada, 59 
Tintagel, Cornwall, Monsignor 

Hawes visits, 115 
Toronto, Canada, 56 

Universe, The, 124 

Vie de Francois d Assise, by 

Paul Sabatier, 13, 14 
Voysey, Charles, 216 

Walking tours, in France, 10; in 
England, 30-2, 36-7; in Italy, 
66 

Waters of Siloe, The, by Thomas 
Merton, 262 



Wattson, Rev. Lewis T. See Fran 
cis, Rev. Paul James 

Webb, Philip, 216 

Wells, Commissioner, 138, 164, 
166, 190 

Western Mail, The, Australian 
publication, 123 

"White Tower," 11, 217 

Wickham, Dean, 18 

Williamson, Father Benedict, 111 
ff., 128, 227, 237, 255-6 

Windsor, Duke of, Governor of 
the Bahamas, 153-4 

Winnipeg, Canada, 58 

World War I, 65 

World War II, 116, 160-1, 167 

Yalgoo, Australia, 75, 78, 80, 87, 
96; gold fields at, 68; descrip 
tion of, 69; church at, 93 

Yowergalbie, Australia, 75 



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